Does a USB stick gain weight when storing information?

Yes, a USB stick gains weight when you’re storing data. However, the increase is so minimal that no commercial scale can record it. And you wouldn’t have much trouble lifting the device, even if you’ve never stood in a gym.

USB Sticks & MicroSD Drawing

Today’s USB flash drives store information using a type of memory called “flash”. When these devices are supposed to represent the number “1” in the binary code, they resort to a special type of transistor where it “traps” some electrons. And when the “0” has to be represented, he lets them go.

In this electron capture process, each bit of information (i.e., every 0 and 1) consumes the energy equivalent of 10 -15 Joules. Don’t forget that mass and energy are two sides of the same coin. Something similar happens with a simple slingshot, which when stretched increases its mass by a fraction of a gram. The elastic stores potential energy, ready to be transformed into the kinetic energy that the projectile will carry.

Negligible increase.

If we compare the energy levels present in our daily lives, those increases in the USB stick are so small that they are negligible. But, if we were to try to accelerate a spacecraft to close to the speed of light, it would become extremely heavy. And I say close to the speed of light because it is theoretically impossible to accelerate an object to 100% the speed of light, a state in which its mass would become infinite. And there is no energy capable of displacing an infinite mass of a point, because inertia would also become infinite.

E = MC2, Albert Einstein’s most famous equation specifies that, in order to know the mass of a given amount of energy, it is enough to divide it by the speed of light squared. If you pay attention, you will see that this equation provides an accurate notion of the conversion rate between mass and energy.

In a vacuum, the speed of light is 299 million meters per second. If we square it, we have 84.9 trillion. And any energy value divided by such a gigantic number results in a very small mass.

So, we have to a 16GB USB stick filled with half zeros and half ones is 8×10-21 heavier grams.



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