Dear Colleagues,

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.

Mark Burgin

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 life...
Thanks also to Sung for his interesting viewpoint and references.

Best wishes to all,

Pedro C. Marijuán
Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group

<> Libre de virus. <>


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