Add new comment

What is information?

FQXi logo

Information — it pertains to anything from telephone directories to the deep mystery of life and the Universe. The first article below introduces some of the questions it poses. The others explore information in other contexts, such as computers, biology and philosophy.

These articles are part of our Information about information project, run in collaboration with FQXi. Happy reading!

What is information? An introduction — Books, brains, computers; information comes in many guises. But what can we actually say about its nature and what questions does it pose? We talked to mathematician and cosmologist George Ellis to give a first idea of some of the ideas involved.

Codes, computers and trees — Most of us know that computers store information using only 0s and 1s. Here is a gentle introduction to how this works.

Information, decisions and bits — A bit is a unit of information, just as a centimetre is a unit of length. But how can we possibly chop information up in this way? Find out in this article.

Biology's next microscope, mathematics' next physics — Not all information is made by humans with a particular intention in mind. Nature also carries information, the prime example being the information stored in our DNA. But are there fundamental laws that govern biological information, just as there are fundamental laws governing physics?

Life's crystal ball — Could the ability to use information cleverly be connected to how efficiently an organism uses energy and define the difference between living and inanimate matter? This article first appeared on the FQXi communities website. FQXi are our partners on this project.

Made of maths? — Some people have suggested that reality is actually made of information, rather than just described by it. If that information has a coherent structure that is captured by maths, then perhaps we could think of reality as a mathematical structure? In this article a philosopher ponders the possibility.

Read more about...

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Want facts and want them fast? Our Maths in a minute series explores key mathematical concepts in just a few words.

  • What do chocolate and mayonnaise have in common? It's maths! Find out how in this podcast featuring engineer Valerie Pinfield.

  • Is it possible to write unique music with the limited quantity of notes and chords available? We ask musician Oli Freke!

  • How can maths help to understand the Southern Ocean, a vital component of the Earth's climate system?

  • Was the mathematical modelling projecting the course of the pandemic too pessimistic, or were the projections justified? Matt Keeling tells our colleagues from SBIDER about the COVID models that fed into public policy.

  • PhD student Daniel Kreuter tells us about his work on the BloodCounts! project, which uses maths to make optimal use of the billions of blood tests performed every year around the globe.