USB drives actually get lighter the more you store on them

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Okay. It’s a Sunday afternoon. We are going lockdown crazy. We have done the garden to the point it could win prizes, so it’s time for a news story that might just blow your mind.

Dr. Peter Bentley of University College London was recently asked on the BBC’s Science Focus whether USB drives get heavier as you save files to them.

It sounds like it might be a ridiculous, crank question right, but the answer will surprise you. Dr. Peter tells us: “Believe it or not, they get lighter. USB drives use Flash memory, which means that the ones and zeros of your data are stored on transistors. When you save data, a binary zero is set by charging the float gate of the transistor, and a binary one is set by removing the charge. 

To charge it, we add electrons, and the mass of each electron is 0.00000000000000000000000000091 grams. This means that an empty USB drive (which mostly holds zeros) weighs more than a full USB drive (which has ones and zeros).”

Still with us? Mind officially blown.

Before you get your scales out however, he also tells us that you would need to weigh more USB drives than currently exist on Earth at the same time before you could easily measure the difference. Still. Cool fact for a lockdown weekend.

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Been around consoles and computers since his parents bought him a Mattel Intellivision. Spent over a decade as editor of popular print-based video games and computer magazines, including a market-leading PlayStation title. Has written tech content for GamePro, Official Australian Playstation Magazine, PlayStation Pro, Amiga Action, Mega Action, ST Action, GQ, Loaded, and the Daily Mirror. Twitter: @iampaulmcnally

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