The office chair or the iPhone you’re touching right now is made of matter. So is the air around you, and the keyboard and mouse you’re using to view this blog. No one doubts that everyday items all around you are made up of building blocks called atoms.
But there’s still one type of “matter” that perplexes me, and I’m not even sure if it can be classified as “matter.” This blog is made out of data. Before we go on though, let’s make sure we have this concept clear. It’s the data we’re talking about; not the data storage device, be it a flash drive or a hard drive; nor the type of machine you’re using to view the data, be it a mobile phone or a monitor.
1s and 0s are all that make up this blog. Matter takes space, but data doesn’t. Matter has mass, but data does not. A hard drive with 1 terabyte of free space will not weigh less (or more) than the exact same hard drive with no free space remaining. Yet, the hard drive that is completely occupied with data weighs no more than an empty hard drive, and still can store thousands of photos, videos, and applications. A photo album with no photos in it will weigh less than a photo album with a thousand photos in it. Yet with a hard drive, more photos does not equal more weight.
So here’s the question- is data matter? Are we violating Newton’s first law of thermodynamics, saying that you can’t get something out of nothing? Are we getting something out of nothing? Is this a paradox? Does this spell doom for physics? science? the world? the universe??? existence as we know it?????!!!!!!