[Fis] Is information physical?
mburgin at math.ucla.edu
Wed Apr 25 03:47:53 CEST 2018
I would like to suggest the new topic for discussion
Is information physical?
My opinion is presented below:
Why some people erroneously think that information is physical
The main reason to think that information is physical is the strong
belief of many people, especially, scientists that there is only
physical reality, which is studied by science. At the same time, people
encounter something that they call information.
When people receive a letter, they comprehend that it is information
because with the letter they receive information. The letter is
physical, i.e., a physical object. As a result, people start thinking
that information is physical. When people receive an e-mail, they
comprehend that it is information because with the e-mail they receive
information. The e-mail comes to the computer in the form of
electromagnetic waves, which are physical. As a result, people start
thinking even more that information is physical.
However, letters, electromagnetic waves and actually all physical
objects are only carriers or containers of information.
To understand this better, let us consider a textbook. Is possible to
say that this book is knowledge? Any reasonable person will tell that
the textbook contains knowledge but is not knowledge itself. In the same
way, the textbook contains information but is not information itself.
The same is true for letters, e-mails, electromagnetic waves and other
physical objects because all of them only contain information but are
not information. For instance, as we know, different letters can contain
the same information. Even if we make an identical copy of a letter or
any other text, then the letter and its copy will be different physical
objects (physical things) but they will contain the same information.
Information belongs to a different (non-physical) world of knowledge,
data and similar essences. In spite of this, information can act on
physical objects (physical bodies) and this action also misleads people
who think that information is physical.
One more misleading property of information is that people can measure
it. This brings an erroneous assumption that it is possible to measure
only physical essences. Naturally, this brings people to the erroneous
conclusion that information is physical. However, measuring information
is essentially different than measuring physical quantities, i.e.,
weight. There are no “scales” that measure information. Only human
intellect can do this.
It is possible to find more explanations that information is not
physical in the general theory of information.
On 4/24/2018 10:46 AM, Pedro C. Marijuan wrote:
> Dear FIS Colleagues,
> A very interesting discussion theme has been proposed by Mark Burgin
> --he will post at his early convenience.
> Thanks are due to Alberto for his "dataism" piece. Quite probably we
> will need to revisit that theme, as it is gaining increasing momentum
> in present "information societies", in science as well as in everyday
> Thanks also to Sung for his interesting viewpoint and references.
> Best wishes to all,
> Pedro C. Marijuán
> Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group
> pcmarijuan.iacs en aragon.es
> Libre de virus. www.avast.com
> Fis mailing list
> Fis en listas.unizar.es
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