Should anyone ask, I don’t want my summer holiday ruined by boiling oceans.

Summer’s on us and most are planning their beach vacation. Us geeks are worrying over our next storage upgrade and simultaneously strategising on ways to avoid sunlight. So it was that I have been interested in Apple’s announcement/Sun’s slip that the next version of the Apple operating system will use the ZFS filesystem. Except that’s it’s hardly just a filesystem, it’s most geeks wet dream, and a good reason to miss the summer vacation. One of the cool things about it is the sheer vastness of it’s storage capabilities.  In fact it’s so vast that if it were ever to be fully used, “our oceans would boil” as we started bumping up against some quantum mechanical limits.  The “oceans would boil” quote comes from the project leader Bonwick said, “Populating 128-bit file systems would exceed the quantum limits of earth-based storage. You couldn’t fill a 128-bit storage pool without boiling the oceans.”:

Although we’d all like Moore’s Law to continue forever, quantum mechanics imposes some fundamental limits on the computation rate and information capacity of any physical device. In particular, it has been shown that 1 kilogram of matter confined to 1 liter of space can perform at most 1051 operations per second on at most 1031 bits of information [see Seth Lloyd, “.” Nature 406, 1047-1054 (2000)]. A fully populated 128-bit storage pool would contain 2128 blocks = 2137 bytes = 2140 bits; therefore the minimum mass required to hold the bits would be (2140 bits) / (1031 bits/kg) = 136 billion kg.

To operate at the 1031 bits/kg limit, however, the entire mass of the computer must be in the form of pure energy. By E=mc², the rest energy of 136 billion kg is 1.2×1028J. The mass of the oceans is about 1.4×1021 kg. It takes about 4,000 J to raise the temperature of 1 kg of water by 1 degree Celsius, and thus about 400,000 J to heat 1 kg of water from freezing to boiling. The latent heat of vaporization adds another 2 million J/kg. Thus the energy required to boil the oceans is about 2.4×106 J/kg * 1.4×1021 kg = 3.4×1027 J. Thus, fully populating a 128-bit storage pool would, literally, require more energy than boiling the oceans.

It seems that temperatures have been flaring over the issue. I just came across this couple.  He said he wanted to upgrade his storage.  She tells him not to boil the ocean.

So enjoy your summer holiday and spare a thought for all the geeks shying away from the sun and trying hard to resist the temptation to boil your ocean.

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