Dear Mark,


Thank you for expressing your opinion of "Information Is Not Physical" in
concise language. It represents the general view from information science

As far as I know, the view of "Information Is Physical?" only appeared in
(natural) science especially in physics. It was first put forward by IBM
physicist Rolf Londouer in 1991. In John Wheeler's writings, though he did
not say so clearly, my feeling is that he generally holds this view.

Thank Louis for using the concept of ‘substrate’ in his post, it is indeed
more academic than ‘carrier’ or ‘container’.


Best wishes,




1. Rolf Londouer, Information is Physical, in PHYSICS TODAY, May 1991, pp.

2. Rolf Londouer, Information is Physical, in Physics and Computation, 1992.
PhysComp '92, pp. 1~4.

3. Rolf Londouer, Information is Physical, in IEEE Computer Society Pr.,
1993. pp. 333~337.


From: <> On Behalf
Of Louis H Kauffman
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 12:52 PM
To: Burgin, Mark <>
Subject: Re: [Fis] Is information physical?


Dear Mark,

Thank you for suggesting this topic.

I concur wholeheartedly with your stand on this matter.

Information in the sense that you indicate 

is pattern that is independent of the particular substrate on which it is


There is a persistent myth in popular scientific culture that mathematics
and the physical are identical.

Just as information is not physical, neither is mathematics.

Each mathematical structure is recognizable as mathematics in that it is
strictly relational and quite independent of the medium in which it is


The example of mathematics as information independent of substrate 

is an opening for exploring more deeply the nature of information. For we
are all aware

of the remarkable interplay of mathematics and the quantitative and
structural understanding of the physical.


I suspect that the end result of that exploration will be for us to admit

we do not know know what is physical, 

that we can deny that information is not physical.


The crux of the matter (sic)

lies in the distinction made between the physical and the non-physical.

There is such a distinction. 

The boundary of that distinction is unknown territory.

Very best,

Lou Kauffman



On Apr 24, 2018, at 8:47 PM, Burgin, Mark <
<> > wrote:


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

   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 <>



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