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Thread: Bits and Mass

  1. #1 Bits and Mass 
    Forum Freshman Rye Rye's Avatar
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    This is just a hypothetical inquiry.

    Assuming that one has a hard disk of X mass, on which there is zero information written, if 100G of information is then downloaded to said hard disk, is there ANY net gain in the overall mass of the drive?

    In other words, does the 100G of informaion occupy any substantial volume in space; is the bit in fact an object subject to the Dynamical Laws of physics?

    If so, what are the physical properties.

    If not, hmmm... the Zeroth Law then?

    Thanks in advanace for any input.

    Cheers,

    Rye Rye


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  3. #2  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope MagiMaster's Avatar
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    No. The hard drive stores information by manipulating the existing matter.

    Consider this. Take a bunch of coins and lay them out in a row, all tails up. Now if you consider tails a 0 and heads a 1, you can store binary information by flipping the coins to either heads or tails. Doing so changes the information stored in the coins, but it doesn't change their mass.

    Now if you were asking this as, does the presence of information cause the mass to increase, I'd still say no, since no information has been created, just changed. There were still 100G worth of bits in the hard drive both before and after the download. In fact, there may actually be less information (in the technical sense) in the hard drive after the download since, by definition, random bits contain the maximum amount of information. This is because random bits can't be compressed. What you downloaded probably could be (at least a little).


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  4. #3  
    Forum Freshman Rye Rye's Avatar
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    From what i have read, i gather that the information encoded onto a magnetic surface, can result in either a net gain or even a net loss of mass, regardless of the amount of information stored.

    am i correct in assuming, thus, that the 'bit' is simply the charge (spin) of already given electrons; and/or simply a repositioning of electrons throught sectors of the disk?
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  5. #4  
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    You have the right idea, but bits are set through the manipulation of magnetic domains involving large numbers of molecules rather than through operations taking place at the atomic level. MagiMaster's example of heads/tails is a better example of disk storage than the concept of pushing around electrons.
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