Download an e-book and your reader gets (microscopically) heavier. So says University of California at Berkeley boffin John Kubiatowicz in the pages of the New York Times. His argument: that energy is bound in the process of storing the book's bits in the reader's Flash memory and, according to Einstein's most famous equation …
If you download something then it takes power to do so so the battery will lose more mass than anything added by a book. In fact, thinking harder, it will be the battery supplying the mass for the book so ideally there would be no net change.
Plus. Time Slows so 'longer to read' and Length Contracts so 'thicker'.
I think you're taking this story far too seriously.
I am not a physicist
But SURELY, as you're in the same reference frame as your ebook, then it only seems thicker and heavier to the chap watching you from the platform.
Taking this too seriously, you say? This is not the Daily Mail, Tony, this is the Register - a veritable hive of pedants, scientists and SF afficianados. You asked for it, my dear chap....
Re: I am not a physicist
We like to chuck the odd metaphorical hand grenade into the commentard pit now and then.
Hand grenade? No, I think what you've done is more akin to swatting a beehive with a stick.
Re: Re: Eh?
I think you're taking that comment far too seriously.
I think you're taking this story far too seriously.
Still slightly bothered that the 'proponent' of the 'heavy book' theorem might have a swipecard to the large hadron collider and a set of pipe benders.
and what about Heisenberg's uncertainty principle ?
Of course, as Kubiatowicz points out, the Kindle must get heavier.....but what about the uncertainty principle ? can you be sure the new book is actually on your Kindle !!
Heisenberg does not apply to books loaded via USB, only those that go via Kindle email. Clearly an example of Something.
I'm fairly sure the book is elsewhere-
until I look to see if it's on the Kindle...
And how does Heisenberg's uncertainty principle work?
It works very well, apparently!
clearly not until you've read it
A sort of "Schrödinger's ebook" then?
Only if it's a book about cats.. Written by a Mr Schrodinger.
Velocity, not speed
If the train is travelling west then it is going against the spin of the earth and so travelling slower than it would be 'at rest' (on the surface) and is therefore lighter.
But what about the shoe size
of the driver?
Ah yes, but if the book was used a smaller font size, would it be lighter?
So this explains "Helvetica Heavy" ?
No, but you can store more books in the Kindle.
Does this article hold water?
It's beren a long time since my degree, but it seems to me that the kindle maintains the memory state irrespective of whether there are books stored within it. Although one could imagine a computer memory using a scheme such as run-length encoding, or at least switching off entire chips when they are all zero, this is not how it works. The entropy of empty memory is the same as that of full memory under most designs.
Furthermore, flash does not use energy to maintain state, so there is no energy difference between a zero and and one. Is there?
I thought flash memory was erased by setting it all to '1' bits, and you could store stuff on it by selectively setting bits to zero. So adding books should, if anything, reduce the weight of all those '1's.
But surely the 0's are heavier than the 1's? A 1 is more or less just a single straight line whereas a 0 is a full circle consisting of a single, much longer line.
If it works like my watch, then no.
A "1" is lighter than a "0" obviously, but my watch has the LEDS light up for a 1, and stay off for a zero. So the light would be heavier... right?
Why is it called light then? 'cos it's light! otherwise it would be called 'heavy' or 'massive.'
What I want to know is where the numbers go when they're not being used - I reckon it must be magic, or pygmies or something.
Based on flawed assumptions?
This might be correct if the device works in the simplistic manner which he assumes, i.e. "Assuming that all these bits in an empty four-gigabyte Kindle are in a lower energy state and that half have a higher energy in a full Kindle". Is that probable? I don't think so.
The device must have been tested or formatted before it left the factory. If it was tested with repeated cycles of "10101010" then "01010101" to find any bad 'bits' abd this, which pattern was left in the memory (just marking the space as 'empty' in the file system), then 50% of the bits would be full when it left the factory.
Depending on your language and choice of reading matter, adding e-books might actually reduce the number of bits that contain the higher energy electrons, thus reducing the mass of the device.
Must try harder, see me after class.
If that kind of thing worries you, for God's sake don't take it outdoors: the radiation pressure from the sun will make it weight about 30 nanograms more. That's the equivalent weight of about 30 billion e-books.
Ones or Zeros?
As the memory is in flash, the actual data will be an exces or deficit of electrons.
Guessing that the flash starts off as zeros and has the ones programmed in by adding electrons, then any content will weigh more than no content.
Alternatively, if the flash starts off as ones and has zeros set by the programming then the book will get lighter with new content
I'm not a physisist either
So where do all these extra electrons come from / go to?
Do you get lightning around the Kindle when you upload books to it (I don't have one so I don't know). In a tight corner, could you use one as a tazer?
They get wifi'ed back for recycling
Amazon is an environmentally friendly company.
"Igor! the Kindles!"
"Stand back, I've got a Kindle"
"Am I supposed to be scZZZPPHHHHTTT"
It actually gets lighter
Theis is NAND flash. The flash starts as ones, but gets programmed to zero. Programming cells is done by injecting positive charge into a floating gate (ie. electrons are removed).
Each bit takes somewhere around 100 electrons to program. Assuming 50% of bits are programmed, that's an average of 50 electrons or 400 per byte.
An electron has a mass of approx 10^-30kg. That makes each byte 4x10^-28kg, each GByte around 4x10^-19kg
So the moral of the story is to download more and make it easier to move around.
It gets worse
If you read your kindle outside of a clean room then it will gain even more weight from dust landing on it. Actually thinking about it there are quite a lot of things that can make a kindle gain weight - I advise against taking your kindle anywhere that you don't have ready access to heavy lifting equipment just in case it gets too heavy for you to carry yourself.
This would never happen with an iProduct, anyone claiming differently is probably holding it wrong.
Will we see
Excess weight charges from the airlines?
"Excuse me sir, how many books do you have stored on that thing?"
//paperback in the pocket
What? No reference to L-space theory?
Mine is the one with "Small Gods" in the pocket.
"you have to wonder what the fuss is about"
No fuss, it's simply for this chap to see his name splashed across the tech daily's!
Please Reg, stop humouring these morons who only live for getting themselves some attention, you're better than that.
'Empty' flash memory is sert to all '1'.
Erasing a flash cell sets it to logic high...
So writing means only zeroes get written....
Thus : storing more books creates additional zeroes : tablet becomes lighter ...
a factory fresh device will be heavier than a used one.
Food for thought : deleting something only erases the index pointer... the data is still there until overwritten.
Okay -- I was only an art major...
"The best thing to do, then, is not read your Kindle on the train, as the conveyance's velocity will only make it even heavier. And thicker."
...but wouldn't the Lorentz contraction make your Kindle appear THINNER on the train...? (Assuming, of course, that the Kindle is held vertically with the height and width perpendicular to the direction of motion.)
The only way that it would appear THICKER would be if it was held with one of the LONGER axes pointing in the direction of travel, and even then the thickness would only APPEAR greater in proportion to the contraction of the affected axis, it wouldn't actually GET thicker.
That's the way that I remember it, at least.
You mean E=mc²
I've also heard
that if you shake your Kindle vigorously for a few minutes all the data compresses down to the bottom and you can fit even more books on it.
Do '0's weigh more than '1's because they are fatter?
Oh, come on now
This article really hasn't considered all the implications of E=mc².
The dominant effects will be those representing the largest energy changes in the Kindle and from an electrical point of view this is clearly going to be the issue of battery charge so as you read the Kindle gets lighter.
The next largest effect is likely to be the Kindle cooling off once taken out of your pocket. As it cools it loses energy and hence mass. Mind you this raises the question of what is meant by "heavier" as the reduced bouyancy due to the thermal contraction may actually be more significant. Once you start down the cheesepairing route there are an awful lot of remarkably small numbers to take into account.
There are a lot more things like this that need to be considered before the internal energy state of the flash memory becomes a significant factor.
And ... if you thought measuring the speed of neutrinos is difficult ...
Add a 'not' gate and the Universe may implode...
If information has mass, and it's attributable to the electrons vice holes, then one well-placed 'not' gate would cause the entire Universe to explode in a flaming heap of illogic.
I feel a new Register constant coming up...
The weight of a unladen Kindle...
Come to think of it, is the air speed velocity of a unladen swallow part of it too?
I've sussed it...
...it's all this physics shite, it's very heavy reading. That's why Kubiatowicz's Kindle got weightier.
The next question is how does compression affect the weight of said ebooks, and what about different formats?
This idea surfaced (!) a couple of years ago for hard disks. There, IMHO, the refutation is easier: a magnetic domain weighs the same no matter what way up it is.
Now I know less about the structure of eeprom cells, and it is not impossible that there are more minority carriers trapped in a '1' than a '0'. Are they symmetrical, these days, or a single junction? That might represent a difference in mass: but as others have said the battery would have to be topped back up before making any measurements.
Trying desperately to fill the monthly article quota?
Sheesh! At least add some decent equations, or a tad bit more science.
That equation does not mean that mass increases when there's more energy! It means that the energy in a thing is equal to its mass times c squared. It's one or the other, not both. Energising a flash ram does not increase the mass. The electrons don't get more mass, they just get more energetic (more speed, higher orbit, etc). When I climb some stairs my mass doesn't go up, even though I've gained a whole lot of energy. What do they teach the kids these days!
Thank you for posting that - if said "boffin" did actually use the E=mc^2 to suggest an increase in weight for all those higher-energy electrons and wasn't just taking the piss himself, el Reg (and the many other news outlets who presumably don't have anyone at all with a teensy bit of science to point out the fail) should simply have pointed and laughed.