In the past 24 hours, people have uploaded more than 720,000 hours of footage to YouTube.
According to calculations made by University of Portsmouth physicist Melvin Fobson a few years ago, this literal mass of visuals – along with half a billion tweets, countless texts, billions of WhatsApp messages and every bit of information we’ve created – could make our planet a touch heavier .
It’s a wild concept that’s unlikely to be accepted without much evidence. An experiment recently suggested by Vopson based on Antimatter Explosions may go some way to convincing the scientific community that information may not only have mass, but may also be something strange new. state of matter.
Information theory is not an easy concept to understand. We can easily imagine downloading a code of ones and zeros that tells our computer what sounds and images to display, but information can also be applied to non-digital objects, such as properties that tell particles how to behave.
This makes it an important factor in describing things like the amount of order and changes in energy that make up a system.
In the early 1960s, a German-American physicist Rolf Landauer expect Minimal change in power to erase information from any type of system. While it may seem like a simple realization, the implications are profound, linking the loss of information to the emission of heat radiation at a fundamental level.
Experiments over the years have supported Landauer’s reasoning, Down to the quantitative levelsuggesting that there is at least something to do with the amount of fundamental energy associated with changing information.
If we also take into account Einstein’s calculations, as does Fobson, this fundamental change in energy must equal a change in mass, which means that all the information we create every day contributes a tiny but non-zero amount of mass to the planet.
Considered to the extreme, the exponential accumulation of cat videos, Wikipedia entries, Twitter beef and TikTok car songs will produce some shocking results in the distant future. Not only can we run out of material to hold all that data, but unfettered digital growth will also mean that a significant portion of the Earth’s mass will end up in the form of digital information.
In fact, within 350 years, some experts predict that our digital bits could weigh more than all of the atoms on Earth.
Regardless of doomsday scenarios for an information crisis, such a theory could change how mass is calculated under certain conditions, leading to new theories that might give us a better idea of the nature of dark matter.
Detecting incredibly subtle shifts in the predicted mass of today’s information-intensive storage systems is still beyond our ability to — for now — leave the hypothesis in the “think fun” basket.
But a new experiment proposed by Fobson may change all that, applying Landauer’s prediction to elementary particles.
Assuming that the electron’s total mass consists of its intrinsic resting energy and a bit of information about itself, then in theory it would emit a predictable spectrum of energy in a spray of photons released when meeting its antimatter counterpart, the positron.
“The information in an electron is 22 million times smaller than its mass, but we can measure the information content by erasing it”, Says Fobson.
“We know that when a particle of matter collides with a particle of antimatter, they annihilate each other. The information from the particle has to go somewhere when it is destroyed.”
Looking for the very specific wavelengths of radiation in an information-laden electron annihilation would tighten the connections between information as a form of energy within the particles, rather than as another advantage. Thermodynamics within a broader system.
Finding some kind of intrinsic, information-based energy component as an essential feature of matter may also qualify for a new type of physical state.
Not only can atoms unite as solids, flow as liquids and gases, disperse as plasmas, and coalesce as Bose-Einstein capacitorsthey can reduce clutter as a carrier of information.
Until the experiment is conducted, the hypothesis will remain a controversial, albeit intriguing, idea. But if that turns out to be true, the consequences could be really dire.
This research was published in Advance AIP.
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