Information about information

Information about information

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We live in a golden age of information. Never has so much of it been available so easily to so many of us. Information is power, it's money and, given how much of our life is lived online, defines part of our reality.

But what exactly is information? We tend to think of it as human made, but since we're all a result of our DNA sequence, perhaps we should think of humans as being made of information. We like to think of it as abstract, but there's no information without physical manifestation, be it in the neurons in our brains, the pages of a book, or the electrical circuits in a computer. We like to think of it as floating on top of reality like a cork on an ocean, but insights from quantum physics suggest that reality might itself be made up of it. Perhaps we do live in a matrix after all.

In this project, brought to you in collaboration with FQXi, we'd like to take you on a journey through the fascinating world of information. We're producing a series of interviews with leading experts to introduce different aspects of information, including questions that philosophers, physicists and mathematicians are currently thinking about. We'd also like you to tell us what you'd like to know about information, please add your comments and questions by posting a comment below – what information would you like about information?

What is information? — Books, brains, computers; information comes in many guises. But what can we actually say about its nature and what questions does it pose? Here are some articles to get you started.

Can you measure information? — It's a tricky question — whether or not you find something informative depends on your personal point of view and there are many different ways of expressing the same thing. Objectivity seems impossible. Yet, as communication technology became ever more important over the last century or so, objective measures became necessary and people's attempts to find them have led to some very interesting ideas. In these articles theoretical computer scientist Scott Aaronson of MIT helps us to explore them.

Can information be turned into energy? — We talked to MIT physicist Seth Lloyd about the relationship between information and energy. Read the interview as well as two related articles from our project partner, FQXi.

The limits of information — With recent advances in information technology it seems that there is no limit to how much smaller and better computer chips can get. But is this really true? We asked Jacob Bekenstein, an expert on the subject, and here is what he told us. We also bring you a related article from FQXi who are our partners on this project. Happy reading!

What is quantum computing? — Quantum computers often grab the science headlines. Offering unprecedented computing power, they are set to revolutionise the world of computing as we know it. But what exactly is quantum computing? What will quantum computers be able to do, and when can we expect to have fully functional ones?

It from bit? — Does reality arise from information? What does this even mean? We explore the impact of John Wheeler's revolutionary ideas.

This project is a collaboration between Plus and FQXi, an organisation that supports and disseminates research on questions at the foundations of physics and cosmology. The FQXi community website does for physics and cosmology what Plus does for maths: provide the public with a deeper understanding of known and future discoveries in these areas, and their potential implications for our worldview.

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