How Much Does the Internet Really Weigh?

DiscoblogBy Brett IsraelNov 24, 2009 12:31 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Technology writer Chris Stevens calculated the weight of the Internet by adding up all the computers, iphones, blackberries, servers, cables -- and just for fun, viruses and websites. The damage comes to 498,438,559,990 kilograms, which Wolfram|Alpha tells us is 1.7 times the mass of all humans currently alive. CNET tries to help readers imagine this bulk:

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The Internet is very heavy indeed. To give you some idea of just how heavy the internet is, imagine an absolutely enormous tower of computers and servers and cables reaching up into the sky like the evil fingers of some apocalyptic demon. Now imagine sparks, thunder, electrical storms. And, on top of it all, an otter screaming pointlessly. That is the closest you are likely to come to visualising the Internet.

The author claims that "for the first time in the world, we have precisely and scientifically calculated the weight of the Internet." Well that's interesting, considering that Stephen Cass, writing for DISCOVER, calculated the weight of the Internet back in 2007 and came to a very different answer. Cass ignored the hardware, and instead calculated the weight of online information by taking the total estimated Web traffic of 40 petabytes (40 x 10^15 bytes: a 4 followed by 16 zeros) and figuring out the weight of the electrons required to store that information. His total?

The weight of the Internet adds up to just about 0.2 millionths of an ounce.

However, a year before that, in 2006, Russell Seitz, calculated the weight of the internet to be 2 ounces. You can read more about his calculations on his blog. So which is it, readers? Weigh in on whose calculation is closest to the truth. Related Content: DISCOVER: How Much Does The Internet Weigh? Discoblog: Will Swine Flu Take Down the Internet? Discoblog: Typo Brings Down the Internet In Sweden

Image: flickr / sugree

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2023 Kalmbach Media Co.