About two ounces (60 grams), or perhaps 0.2 millionths of an ounce (6 micrograms), depending which method you use to calculate the weight of the active electrons necessary to sustain the global network.
But whichever number you end up with, it's clear that the net is the most expensive substance known to humans: think how much you pay for your internet connection, and then consider what a tiny part of the global network that is, and it's clear that these are super-precious electrons.
Why the 10m-fold variation? Because it depends on whether you use Russell Seitz's method, which is to guess at the number of servers running the net (between 75m and 100m), their average power consumption (between 350W and 550W), the average voltage inside a logic gate (3V), and the average speed of those chips (1GHz).
"An ampere is some 1018 electrons a second," Seitz writes, totting up the power use at 40bn Watts (40GW): "Straightforward calculation reveals that some 50 grams of electrons in motion make up the internet." Always bearing in mind that each electron has a resting mass of 9.1x10-31 kilograms, of course - so it takes a lot of them to make up even that tiny weight.
Discover magazine, however, used the weight of a "bit" - comprised of 40,000 electrons stored in a capacitor on a chip. Bear in mind that the average 8-bit byte only contains four "1" bits (and four "0" bits), multiply it by the total volume of information passing around the net, estimated at 40 petabytes, and voila: 0.2 millionths of an ounce. Or so. Of course, once your electron starts moving, its weight will rise (due to relativistic effects). So perhaps the net really does get slower as more people use it.
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