Dear Lou and Mark,

Thanks for this - it is very important.

A quick question: why does it have to one or the other? Does the law of the
excluded middle apply to information? Why can't it be both?

As a way of extending this, can I suggest that the boundary between the
physical and the non-physical is between constraint A and constraint B?
It's likely that my boundary between A and B is not the same as your
boundary. My transduction process which maintains my boundary is not the
same as your transduction process. But it may well be that our transduction
processes are intertwined - like when we talk about it and try to agree
what "information" is.

As for knowledge in a textbook, the function of objects in the process of
teaching (what's that?) is certainly not as simple as the mere appearance
of textbooks would suggest: a textbook isn't a "knowledge pill". There are
related questions: what does a conductor do to an orchestra? What is the
relation of the score to what occurs? Where is the performance?

Best wishes,


On 25 April 2018 at 05:52, Louis H Kauffman <> wrote:

> 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
> ‘carried’.
> 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
> expressed.
> 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
> that
> 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 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.
> Sincerely,
> 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
> -------------------------------------------------
> Pedro C. Marijuán
> Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation 
> Grouppcmarijuan.iacs@aragon.es
> -------------------------------------------------
> <>
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> de virus.
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Dr. Mark William Johnson
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Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
University of Liverpool

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