Editorial: How much data is in one ejaculation?

Editorial: How much data is in one ejaculation?

One sperm contains about 3.3 billion base pairs, stored in DNA. Each base pair is two bits of data, for a total of 787MB of data per sperm. With somewhere around 280 million sperm per ejaculation, that means a single load contains about 220,000 terabytes of data. That’s a lot of information to swallow. 

To be fair, all that data is essentially repeats of the same sequence of genetic code with minor differences. It’s like storing the entire series of Breaking Bad over and over and over again on several hard drives. All up, though, it’s a hefty number. So what could be done with 220,000TB? Well, you could store 330,000,000 copies of Mario Kart for the Nintendo Switch. The storage capacity of your entire brain can fit into an ejaculation 88 times. 

That famous image of our black hole, the one that came out a few years ago, could be stored just 55 times. The 4,000,000GB of data in that image was stored in hard drives that weighed over half a ton. If you want to store 220,000TB of data, it would cost you more than $14,000,000 to buy enough hard drives from JB Hi-Fi to store one ejaculation’s worth of data.

These are big numbers – so let’s focus just on one sperm: 787MB. That’s a few hundred copies of my compressed undergraduate thesis, or about a dozen issues of Critic Te Arohi. You’d need just over 54 sperm to store the entirety of James Cameron’s Avatar, but only seven and a half sperm to store Morbius. Or, you could fit PacMan into one sperm 13,000 times. 

To get a bit more technical, the human genome encoded in base pairs is not exactly “data” like we’d imagine. A lot of it is repetitive, and it’s pretty much the same between all the sperm. So instead of having 220,000TB of data, you’ve really got several million copies of the same 787MB file. Instead of shooting out 55 copies of the highest-ever resolution image of a black hole, it’s more like shooting out 280 million copies of the same two TikToks. 

It’s a lot of information, but here’s another way to think of it: on a fast ethernet connection, it’ll take about six minutes to upload one terabyte of data. An ejaculation takes about five seconds, and in those five seconds, you’ll release 220,000 terabytes of data. This makes you, for those five seconds, the fastest data processor in the world. Careful not to spill.

This article first appeared in Issue 16, 2022.
Posted 2:40pm Monday 25th July 2022 by Fox Meyer.