www.weevilmagazine.com Issue #5 February 2010
It's All in the Mind
While slaving away at lab benches or perishing in In his paper “The Height of a Giraffe”, published in
a library, one often forgets what the true spirit of the journal Foundations of Physics, Don Page
science is all about. We think of numbers and calculates the height of a giraffe, under the
theories, forgetting all enjoyment and fun of finding assumption that it is “the tallest organism that can
things out. run without overheating”. Taking into account the
atmospheric temperature and surface gravity of a
Say you wanted to find out how tall giraffes were. habitable planet, as well as the power and time
Many scientists would go out, catch a giraffe and required to take a stride, Page computed this
measure it. If you were being thorough, you might estimate height as the Bohr radius multiplied by
capture several giraffes and measure them all, in the three-tenths power of the ratio of the electrical
order to calculate the average height of a giraffe in to gravitational forces between two protons, which
a sample. Then you would note it down and sit is approximately equal to 3.6 metres.
back, with a sense of a job well done. Right?
This seems a far more realistic estimate than the
Wrong. Everybody knows that experimental data previous one, made by William Press and Alan
is inherently flawed due to a combination of Lightman in 1983, of human height being between
observer bias, dodgy instruments and 2.6 and 6 cm, it still falls short of Wikipedia’s
misbehaving subjects. Besides, anyone could estimate of 4-6 metres. Then again, what are you
catch and measure giraffes – and true science is going to believe –
something only a true scientist can achieve. science or
Finally, you may get kicked by an uncooperative Wikipedia?
quadruped, and nobody wants that. What a true
scientist would do instead is take a theoretical Mia has supreme
approach, calculating giraffe height from first faith in science.
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principles, producing a much more precise result The perceived
than could ever be achieved with experiments. tallness of giraffes
And this is exactly what Don N. Page at the is merely an
University of Alberta did. optical illusion.
How Much Does The Internet Weigh?
The internet. Some say it is the pinnacle of human researched internet use and approximated that at
achievement; a seemingly endless world of any given moment, the internet contains 40
information. A digital realm populated by videos, petabytes of information. For those of you who
music, messages, pictures, advertisements, don’t know what a petabyte is, consider this. 500
questions, answers and so much more. One could Cambridge University Libraries would hold about
spend a lifetime surfing the web and still only one petabyte of information. So if you wanted to
come into contact with a small percentage of the store the entire internet on paper, you would need
information available. And yet, as we all mindlessly about 20,000 University Libraries. About 75% of
jump from website to website, one important this mass of data is taken up by file sharing
question never seems to cross anyone’s mind. (mostly videos and music). Add in another 16% for
How much does all this crap weigh!? general internet browsing and about 9% for email
use and you pretty much have all internet data
Many naysayers out there might try to point out accounted for. At this point Discover Magazine
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that the internet is digital and therefore cannot stepped in and used what has been described as
technically weigh anything. But, not being able to “some pretty complicated maths” to figure out
back down from a challenge, we at Weevil have exactly how many electrons would be needed to
found not one, but two answers to this vexing store and transmit all that information. Add up the
question. The first answer comes from the weight of all of those electrons and you get
combined effort of Discover Magazine and Clifford 5.89x10-9 kg. That’s 0.00000000589 kg. After all of
Holliday. How did they do it? Well, first Clifford that, we find out that the internet weighs less than
Holliday, author of Internet Growth 2006, the smallest grain of sand. If right now you are
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