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Can the nature of information resolve one of the great paradoxes of cosmology?

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Chris Fields, for perhaps obvious reasons an independent researcher, offers a thesis that attempts to grapple with the nature of information in cosmology, as discussed at the Physics arXiv Blog:

In fact, Fields argues that it is the interaction between the cosmic microwave background and all large objects in the universe that causes them to decohere giving them specific positions which astronomers observe.

But there is an important consequence from having a specific position—there must be some information associated with this location in 3D space. If a location is unknown, then the amount of information must be small. But if it is known with precision, the information content is much higher.

And given that there are some 10^25 stars in the universe, that’s a lot of information. Fields calculates that encoding the location of each star to within 10 cubic kilometres requires some 10^93 bits.

That immediately leads to an entirely new way of determining the energy density of the cosmos. Back in the 1960s, the physicist Rolf Landauer suggested that every bit of information had an energy associated with it, an idea that has gained considerable traction since then.

So Fields uses Landauer’s principle to calculate the energy associated with the locations of all the stars in the universe. This turns out to be about 10^-30 g /cm^3, very similar to the observed energy density of the universe.

But here’s the thing. That calculation requires the position of each star to be encoded only to within 10 km^3. Fields also asks how much information is required to encode the position of stars to the much higher resolution associated with the Planck length. “Encoding 10^25 stellar positions at [the Planck length] would incur a free-energy cost ~ 10^117 larger than that found here,” he says.

That difference is remarkably similar to the 120 orders of magnitude discrepancy between the observed energy density and that calculated using quantum mechanics. More.

Readers?

See also: Data Basic, a brief introduction to information

and

Being as Communion.

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35 Replies to “Can the nature of information resolve one of the great paradoxes of cosmology?

  1. 1
    Jim Smith says:

    Only in cosmology is three orders of magnitude (120-117) considered “similar”. When I took physics if an answer was three orders of magnitude off it was considered wrong. Now-a-days, they don’t just want to do away with falsifiability, they don’t even care if the numbers add up.

  2. 2
    steve4003 says:

    The relationship between information and energy is intriguing, but focusing on arbitrary precisions of star positions seems odd. The first precision used, 10 km^3, is an earthly measurement that has no other relation to cosmology that I’m aware of. The second precision, Plank length, seems overly precise for such a massive body that is in motion. Anyway, why consider just the positions of the 10^25 stars and not other celestial bodies?

  3. 3
    ppolish says:

    Why only the information from position/motion of stars/planets? That sure ignores a lot of info. We have a lot more information on methane oceaned Titan than just its position/motion.

    The theory does predict that the Cosmological Constant would change as stars are born and die for example. Some Scientists favor this “evolving” Cosmological Constant idea. But evidence does show The Constant has been a constant since the Big Bang. http://m.phys.org/news/2015-02.....-mass.html

    Information is key though. “Matter is a myth” like Dr Dembski writes in his new book:)

  4. 4
    ppolish says:

    Aurelio, can something exist without information? Nope. What came first, the info or the something? The Info. Can’t have something without info. Info first. Word.

  5. 5
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Allow me to speculate wildly

    The original paper seems to assume Quantum Darwinism and that interaction with the CBR is sufficient to cause decoherence.

    However if we go with the Von Neumann–Wigner interpretation I would think testable predictions would surface. For instance we might expect the Cosmological constant to increase as measurement gets more precise.

    Is it possible that the act of observing the universe is what is causing it’s expansion?

    ppolish says,

    What came first, the info or the something? The Info. Can’t have something without info. Info first. Word.

    I say,

    Word (information) exists first. Then the Word spoken yielded the observable universe. Genesis 1:3.

    how cool and cutting edge is that

    Peace

  6. 6
    ppolish says:

    “Back in the 1960s, the physicist Rolf Landauer suggested that every bit of information had an energy associated with it,”

    That should be “every bit of energy had information associated with it.” And The Info came before the energy/matter.

    Fiftmonarchman, very cool:)

  7. 7
    groovamos says:

    PPolish: Aurelio, can something exist without information? Nope. What came first, the info or the something? The Info. Can’t have something without info. Info first. Word.

    A theological question and answer. Information cannot exist without mind to create or perceive meaning/purpose/intention. Since the universe can exist without embodied minds, we’re left with …? Problem is does the Prime Mover relate at all to the human definitions/concepts of information. So in that sense maybe information in our understanding of it requires embodied minds. A tautology sure but maybe it opens up the possibility of the universe existing without information. As we conceive of it. In that case the exercise reported by the OP is totally bogus. In other words I surely don’t know – being in the middle of a project depending on an extended form of the Shannon-Hartley theorem for validity, doesn’t help here. I know that IBM in the early ’80’s empirically validated the energy/bit prediction.

  8. 8
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    groovamos says

    So in that sense maybe information in our understanding of it requires embodied minds.

    I say,

    The incarnation!!!!

    When the Word became flesh and the “Prime Mover related to the human definitions/concepts of information”.

    Isn’t it odd how 2 thousand year old theology is cutting edge and relevant to discussions about 21st century cosmology

    you say,

    A tautology sure but maybe it opens up the possibility of the universe existing without information. As we conceive of it.

    I say,

    Depends on if you are talking about Kairos or Chronos time.

    check it out.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kairos

    peace

  9. 9
    ppolish says:

    Yes, Groovamos, my answer to my question was a Theologicsl answer. I’m a Theist:)

    An Atheist might answer that matter & information emerge simultaneously poof. Or energy & information poof simultaneously too. Or worse yet, matter and/or energy poof before information.

    As a Theist, I am ok with Faith. Not falsifiable? No biggie – I’m a Theist. Modern Science is bumping up against deep questions as of late and are increasingly depending on Faith also. About time they caught up;) Although there are plenty of Theist Scientists that won’t have as much soul searching to do.

  10. 10
    Seversky says:

    It would help if we could agree on what we mean by information. If what Fields means by information is “the interaction between the cosmic microwave background and all large objects in the universe that causes them to decohere giving them specific positions which astronomers observe” that’s fine. It’s certainly not what I understand by information, though, and I’m sure I’m not alone. So, if we’re going to speculate about information being the underlying structure of the Universe, we’d better have some common notion of what we’re all talking about. Otherwise, how is it any different from the string or multiverse theories which are routinely panned here?

  11. 11
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Seversky says,

    If what Fields means by information is “the interaction between the cosmic microwave background and all large objects in the universe that causes them to decohere giving them specific positions which astronomers observe” that’s fine.

    I say

    I don’t believe that Fields is postulating a new understanding of what information is.

    He is just advocating a particular understanding of what causes decoherence. He thinks that interaction with the environment is sufficient to collapse the wave function.

    I’m not sure how holding to one of the other more standard interpretations of QM would effect his argument. It would be interesting to explore the implications if any from each of the other options.

    Anyway none of this speculation requires one to hold an idiosyncratic understanding of what information is as far as I can tell.

    What is important is to understand that information has energy associated with it aka Landauer’s principle. That is pretty uncontroversial.

    peace

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    This may be of related interest for you thermodynamic math geeks:

    Gravity from Quantum Information – Dec. 2013
    Excerpt introduction: ,,,As a variant of the second law of thermodynamics, the Landauer’s principle states that to erase N bits of information of a system irreversibly at least kBN entropy of a bath should be increased and at least kBT N energy should be consumed, where kB is the Boltzman’s constant and T is the temperature of the thermal bath contacting with the system. For a black hole and the universe their causal horizons play roles of the bath and an information barrier. We suggested that there is energy Eh related to the information erasing at the horizon,,
    Excerpt conclusion: In short, the Einstein equation links matter to gravity and his famous formula E=mc2 links matter to energy. We know also that the Landauer’s principle links information to energy. Thus, now we have a relation between information and gravity, the Einstein equation with the quantum informational interpretation. Our theory implies that the Einstein equation is more about information rather than energy or equation of state. In other words, information might be more profound physical entity than matter or field.
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1001.5445v2.pdf

  13. 13
    bornagain77 says:

    Also of related note, it seems that consciousness it not so easily reducible to an information basis as the rest of the universe seems to be

    Mathematical Model Of Consciousness Proves Human Experience Cannot Be Modeled On A Computer – May 2014
    Excerpt: The central part of their new work is to describe the mathematical properties of a system that can store integrated information in this way but without it leaking away. And this leads them to their central proof. “The implications of this proof are that we have to abandon either the idea that people enjoy genuinely [integrated] consciousness or that brain processes can be modeled computationally,” say Maguire and co.
    Since Tononi’s main assumption is that consciousness is the experience of integrated information, it is the second idea that must be abandoned: brain processes cannot be modeled computationally.
    https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/mathematical-model-of-consciousness-proves-human-experience-cannot-be-modelled-on-a-computer-898b104158d

    Sentient robots? Not possible if you do the maths – 13 May 2014
    Over the past decade, Giulio Tononi at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his colleagues have developed a mathematical framework for consciousness that has become one of the most influential theories in the field. According to their model, the ability to integrate information is a key property of consciousness. ,,,
    But there is a catch, argues Phil Maguire at the National University of Ireland in Maynooth. He points to a computational device called the XOR logic gate, which involves two inputs, A and B. The output of the gate is “1” if A and B are the same and “0” if A and B are different. In this scenario, it is impossible to predict the output based on A or B alone – you need both.
    Crucially, this type of integration requires loss of information, says Maguire: “You have put in two bits, and you get one out. If the brain integrated information in this fashion, it would have to be continuously haemorrhaging information.”,,,
    Based on this definition, Maguire and his team have shown mathematically that computers can’t handle any process that integrates information completely. If you accept that consciousness is based on total integration, then computers can’t be conscious.
    http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....3LD5ChuqCe

  14. 14
    Me_Think says:

    Chris Fields advocates that the problem of energy density of the universe can be solved if all the macroscopic object are considered Quantum instead of classical – we need to know the position of all those stuff accurately ( at least to the accuracy of within 10 cubic kilometers ).
    If you consider the objects to be quantum and you know their position accurately, obviously you can’t know the momentum phase of the object accurately, so what you gain in information of position, you loss in not having accurate information of momenta phase. A system phase needs both space and momenta phase information, without which you can’t describe it’s state.
    It is quite obvious that Chris Fields has a problem understanding the concept, and of course every Tom, Dick and Harry knows that a complete quantum universe will have an energy density of zero, so only God knows what Chris Fields trying to do.

  15. 15
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Aurelio Smith says

    For me, information is about something. So yes, for us to have information, we must have something.

    I say,

    I know that the ratio of an ideal circle’s circumference to its diameter is Pi. I also know that an ideal circle can not exist in the physical universe.

    I have information about a non-materiel object(the Ideal circle). According to your understanding of information does that mean that I have proven the existence of the non-materiel?

    interesting stuff.

  16. 16
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    i love this sort of speculation

    Me thinks says

    Of course every Tom, Dick and Harry knows that a complete quantum universe will have an energy density of zero, so only God knows what Chris Fields trying to do.

    I say,

    Depends on your perspective. If you observing the universe from the outside it’s very possible that the energy density is zero but from the inside a particular region of spacetime can have positive or negative energy at any one time.

    What you need to fully understand the energy density of the universe is two observers one inside and one outside the universe that are entangled with each other. You need an Incarnation.

    A side benefit of such an arrangement is that time falls out.

    check it out

    https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/quantum-experiment-shows-how-time-emerges-from-entanglement-d5d3dc850933

    Me thinks says

    If you consider the objects to be quantum and you know their position accurately, obviously you can’t know the momentum phase of the object accurately, so what you gain in information of position, you loss in not having accurate information of momenta phase.

    I say

    You are limiting yourself to just one observer the uncertainty problem goes away if you have 2 “entangled” observers one inside and one outside.

    Isn’t it cool how two thousand year old theology is relevant to cutting edge cosmology.

    peace

  17. 17
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Aurelio Smith says,

    A “perfect” circle is a mathematical model of an aspect of reality. The models exist as thought exercises. Why do you class thoughts as non-existent?

    I say,

    I don’t, I think that thoughts actually truly exist. Thoughts are non-materiel. This particular thought (the perfect circle) can never ever be represented materially.

    Does that mean that I have just proven the existence of the non-materiel?

    peace

  18. 18
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Aurelio Smith says,

    “Perfect” circles can be modeled quite well mathematically.

    I say,

    I think you mean approximated. A perfect circle can not be modeled the program will never halt.

    peace

  19. 19
    Zachriel says:

    fifthmonarchyman: I think you mean approximated. A perfect circle can not be modeled the program will never halt.

    The model is an abstraction, the points on a plane equidistant from a center point. It has nothing to do with a “program”.

  20. 20
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Zac says,

    The model is an abstraction

    I say,

    So we agree the model is not an actual perfect circle.

    On the other hand I have information about an actual real perfect circle. I know the ratio of it’s circumference to its diameter.

    The perfect circle can not exist materially

    According to AS’s understanding does that mean I have proven the existence of the non-materiel?

    AS says

    But the definition of a perfect circle is simple (x-a)2 + (y-b)2 = r2

    I say,

    you are confusing two separate concepts

    model and definition

    Instead of “Definition” I prefer the term “specification” and a specification is not the same as a model.

    A model is a step by step algorithm that will approximate an object a specification is a precise description of the object.

    When it comes to things like perfect circles

    Models are lossy data compression
    Specifications are nonlossy data compression

    Models are approximations of the object that can exist in the finite materiel universe.

    Specifications on the other hand are descriptions of the actual object that exists only outside the cave.

    You can search the universe and you will never find an object that matches your “definition” because such an object can not exist physically

    peace

  21. 21
    Zachriel says:

    fifthmonarchyman: So we agree the model is not an actual perfect circle.

    You must be overloading the term “perfect”. The shape formed by points on a plane equidistant from a center point is a {perfect} circle, by definition.

    fifthmonarchyman: The perfect circle can not exist materially

    No. A circle is an abstraction. We may call that abstraction a model.

    fifthmonarchyman: A model is a step by step algorithm that will approximate an object a specification is a precise description of the object.

    A model can be an abstraction.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conceptual_model

  22. 22
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    AS says,

    You can think of a perfect circle. Your thought is real. So the perfect circle is real.

    I say,

    We agree, A perfect circle is real and a perfect circle is not materiel. Indeed it can’t be

    So….Therefore…syllogism

    premise 1) The perfect circle exists
    premise 2) The perfect circle is non-materiel

    conclusion—non-materiel things exist

    peace

  23. 23
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Zac says,

    A circle is an abstraction.

    I say,

    maybe in your world. But in the real world circles are actual geometric shapes that have their own independent existence.

    The perfect circle is not the average of all materiel circles.

    The perfect circle is the non-materiel protoype of all the imperfect circles that exist in the materiel universe.

    If no physical universe existed at all the perfect circle would still exist mathematically outside the cave.

    Peace

  24. 24
    Zachriel says:

    fifthmonarchyman: But in the real world circles are actual geometric shapes that have their own independent existence.

    Most people do not refer to mathematical abstractions as the “real world”.

    ETA: We really need to compile a list of all your ‘special’ definitions.

  25. 25
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Zac says,

    We really need to compile a list of all your ‘special’ definitions.

    I say,

    I find this to be funny coming from the guy who refers to himself in the plural and who has claimed that all definitions are necessarily incomplete.

    you say,

    Most people do not refer to mathematical abstractions as the “real world”

    I say,

    Did I stutter?

    What part of “the perfect circle is an actual geometric shape and a prototype”. was unclear to you?

    I honestly think you are incapable of listening to what others have to say.

    Peace

  26. 26
    Zachriel says:

    fifthmonarchyman: who has claimed that all definitions are necessarily incomplete.

    Not all definitions, but certainly a complex phenomenon such as evolution can be hard to encapsulate in a few words.

    fifthmonarchyman: But in the real world circles are actual geometric shapes that have their own independent existence.

    If you mean shapes that resemble the abstraction called “circle”, then sure. We have a conceptual model, the circle. We then compare the conceptual model to physical objects, and if they resemble the conceptual model, we might say the object is a circle. That’s two different uses of the same term.

    fifthmonarchyman: A perfect circle can not be modeled the program will never halt.

    The abstract circle is the model.

  27. 27
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    ZAc said,

    If you mean shapes that resemble the abstraction called “circle”, then sure.

    I say

    No I mean perfect circles are not abstractions at all they have an actual prototypical existence.

    Abstractions are just the average mental conglomeration of materiel things.

    Perfect circles on the other hand are the actual existing geometric shapes that materiel circles are patterned after.

    Did I stutter?

    Apparently we have once again reached an impasse. You appear unable to even listen to anyone else.

    I could understand it if you simply disagreed with me but you are not even able to hear what I’m saying.

    peace

  28. 28
    Zachriel says:

    fifthmonarchyman: No I mean perfect circles are not abstractions at all they have an actual prototypical existence.

    Add abstraction to the list of fmm-words. A circle is a mathematical abstraction.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.....thematics)

  29. 29
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Zacs link says

    Abstraction in mathematics is the process of extracting the underlying essence of a mathematical concept, removing any dependence on real world objects with which it might originally have been connected, and generalizing it so that it has wider applications or matching among other abstract descriptions of equivalent phenomena

    I say

    geez

    Suppose I take every single circle that exists in the phyiscal universe measure their circumference and diameters with a device that is accurate to the plank length.

    Next I calculate all the ratios and average them.

    Would the result equal Pi?

    Of course not it would only be a finite approximation of Pi.

    Therefore the Ideal circle can not be an abstraction taken from materiel circles.

    This is just common sense.

    I rest my flipping case.

    Peace

  30. 30
    Zachriel says:

    fifthmonarchyman: Therefore the Ideal circle can not be an abstraction taken from materiel circles.

    That wasn’t our argument, but that’s just silly. Circles in nature don’t have to be perfect circles for people to develop an abstract concept of a circle from those experiences.
    http://www.mathsisfun.com/geom.....e-draw.jpg

    In any case, a mathematical circle is an abstraction, just like lines, the number two, triangles, imaginary numbers and ellipses are abstractions.

  31. 31
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Zac says,

    Circles in nature don’t have to be perfect circles for people to develop an abstract concept of a circle from those experiences.

    I say

    People don’t develop an abstract concept of a circle like you would develop an abstract concept of a proposed invention or piece of art.

    People discover the already existing concept of a circle.

    If no people existed. If there were no phyiscal reality at all the ratio of a perfect circle’s circumference to it’s diameter would still be Pi.

    Do you honestly disagree with this?

    Zac before,

    Most people do not refer to mathematical abstractions as the “real world”.

    Zac now,

    In any case, a mathematical circle is an abstraction, just like lines, the number two, triangles, imaginary numbers and ellipses are abstractions.

    I say,

    First you describe the abstract as not real then you define everything that is not materiel as abstract.

    Quite a tight circle of materialist logic you have going there Zac.

    You do realize that the majority of the world would find it a little goofy if you told them that the number 2 and triangles were not part of the “real” world.

    peace

  32. 32
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    AS says,

    We can easily conceive of a perfect circle, being defined in only two dimensions and therefore occupying zero space. The thought and the concept are real at least.

    I say,

    exactly, We agree on something the concept is “real” yet it is not materiel.

    So in-order to answer your question of whether information can exist other than as property of something else all we need to determine is if the something else you are referring to has to be a physical thing ?

    If the “something” is phyiscal then clearly information can exist first.

    If “something” exists outside the cave then it and it’s information are equally ultimate

    peace

  33. 33
    Zachriel says:

    fifthmonarchyman: If there were no phyiscal reality at all the ratio of a perfect circle’s circumference to it’s diameter would still be Pi.

    Given the axioms of plane geometry, which were developed from experience of the natural world, yes.

    fifthmonarchyman: You do realize that the majority of the world would find it a little goofy if you told them that the number 2 and triangles were not part of the “real” world.

    Anyone who has studied even first-year geometry understands that triangles in mathematics are abstractions. While most people are aware of triangles before their first-year, they then learn about other geometric patterns, such as ellipses and dodecahedrons.

  34. 34
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Zac says,

    Given the axioms of plane geometry, which were developed from experience of the natural world, yes.

    I say,

    Axioms aren’t developed. Axioms are the starting point from which we reason not the product of our reasoning.

    you say,

    Anyone who has studied even first-year geometry understands that triangles in mathematics are abstractions.

    I say,

    Do first year geometry students “understand” that “abstractions” like triangles are not real?

    peace

  35. 35
    Zachriel says:

    fifthmonarchyman: Axioms aren’t developed. Axioms are the starting point from which we reason not the product of our reasoning.

    Of course axioms are developed. There’s even an historical process.

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