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But how do they know how much energy a bit requires?



As I said, that's by the second law of thermodynamics...

There is a nice <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxwell%27s_demon>tought experiment</a> linking thermodynamics to information theory. And guess what, experiments agree with the theory.

After you have the theoretical framewok done, it is just a matter of applying the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boltzmann%27s_entropy_formula&#... entropy formula</a>, and you are done.

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We know the minimum amount of energy required, because we exactly know the information content of a bit.

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That is technology-dependent. Mercury-filled-cylinder delay lines took more energy than modern DRAM.

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