Einstein’s theory of special relativity brought us one of the most famous equations in science, E=mc2, and showed that energy and mass are equivalent. In our modern, high-tech world, operations involving digital information storage and processing require huge amounts of energy. This gives way to the theory behind the mass-energy-information equivalence principle, the idea that because a bit of information is energy, it must have mass as well.

Landauer’s principle links thermodynamics and digital information through logical irreversibility. Experiments have proven the process of deleting a bit of information dissipates heat energy, but after information is created, it can be stored with no energy loss. Melvin Vopson proposes this happens because once information is created, it acquires finite mass.

“This idea is laboratory testable in principle,” said Vopson. He suggests taking mass measurements of a digital data storage device when it has full memory. If it has more mass than when the device’s memory is cleared, then that would show the mass-energy-information equivalence is correct.

If the theory was to be confirmed, the implications would have an impact that could change the way we see the entire universe.

“For over 60 years, we have been trying unsuccessfully to detect, isolate or understand the mysterious dark matter,” said Vopson. “If information indeed has mass, a digital informational universe would contain a lot of it, and perhaps this missing dark matter could be information.”

Unfortunately, taking the extremely small measurement needed to such precision may currently be unachievable. Vopson proposes the next step to getting answers could be developing a sensitive interferometer similar to LIGO or an ultra-sensitive Kibble balance.

Source: “The mass-energy-information equivalence principle,” by Melvin M. Vopson, AIP Advances (2019). The article can be accessed at http://doi.org/10.1063/1.5123794.