Your Kindle Gets Heavier as You Add E-Books to It

Illustration for article titled Your Kindle Gets Heavier as You Add E-Books to It

Mustachioed UC Berkeley computer science professor John Kubiatowicz told the NY Times that your Kindle gets heavier when you add e-books. Don't worry, though, you won't feel it with your hand, or with any scale that we've ever created.


When you load up your Kindle (or iPad, or smartphone) with data, the transistors in the flash memory use a trapped electron to distinguish between a 0 and a 1 (the poetic language of computers). According to Einstein's theory of relativity, E=mc² if something has energy, it has mass and weight. A small, undetectable, theoretical amount of mass and weight. We're talking about an atogram, or 10 to the -18th of a gram. Our bestest scales can only measure 10 to the -9th.

Kubiatowicz went on to say that the weight gained from adding data is only about one hundred-millionth as much as the estimated fluctuation from charging and discharging the device's battery—which is also almost undetectable here. For you ultralight commuters out there, I guess the lesson is that you should always travel with just one e-book and a 5-percent charged battery on your Kindle. Goodbye back-strain! [NY Times via The Register Hardware]

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This very narrow form of thinking has lead to a very wrong answer and potentially made half your audience much stupider for reading it. so #corrections here we go.

First - yes - technically a block of 1's would weight more then a block of zeros.

* but - do we know that kindle flash drives are sent zero'd or just have a quick format before sending? if they are tested then quick - formatted the drive could come to you more then half full of 1's - adding a book with less then 50% 1's would then decrease the weight.


Second - These electrons don't magically appear. They are routed from the battery to the storage block. So the net weight = same.

*but - this does not happen with 100% efficiency. Electrons are lost, well turned into heat due to inefficiency in the device. More are lost (turned to heat) to things like the processing power that's required to store the information and the wifi modem used to get it. All else being equal adding book to your kindle slightly decreases its weight in respect to electrons.


Third. When you recharge your device, replenishing electrons in the battery. Now it probably weighs a little more, but maybe not, depending on how the batteries capacity has decreased over time.


Fourth - You probably touched your device to add this book, shaving off precious picometers of plastic from the device, knocking them to the floor. These aren't significant in weight, except that that are many millions of times heavier then the electron you lost in the previous consideration.


Finally, because you touched your device - you left a very measurable amount of human grease, oil, skin cells, and environmental dirt on it. This all weighs many many millions of times the amount of the plastic your rasped off.

In conclusion - adding books to your kindle probably increases it's weight, but not for any of the reasons you stated.