What is information?

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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.