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Paul Davies: Incorporating information into science as a physical quantity

The Demon in the Machine: How Hidden Webs of Information Are Finally Solving the Mystery of Life by [Davies, Paul]

In this interview with prominent origin-of-life physicist Paul Davies, author of The Demon in the Machine:How Hidden Webs of Information Are Finally Solving the Mystery of Life, we learn,

In some ways, Demon in the Machine is a follow up to your 1998 book The Fifth Miracle, where you also tackle the origins of life. What has changed since you wrote that book?

The science has changed. I was motivated to write this book, in part because I am now surrounded by some very clever young people who are coming up with all sorts of wonderful ideas, but also because of advances, not only in biology, but in fundamental physics. The demon in the title of the book is something that’s beloved of all physicists: Maxwell’s demon. It’s the sort of thing you learn, you think, “Hmm, well okay. I understand,” then you move on because it’s been an inconvenient truth at the heart of physics for over 150 years. It’s only just in the last few years that people have actually built devices based on the concept. This is now part of nanotechnology – you can build devices that, in a thermal background, can actually discern individual degrees of freedom and operate mechanisms to convert heat into work or use information as a fuel or a source of energy.

I have to say, it’s on a very small scale. My favourite is the information-powered refrigerator, which is being built in Finland. Don’t expect anything from your kitchen appliances soon, but it establishes the principle that to fully understand the nature of thermodynamics, we have to take into account information as a physical quantity, and not just as some sort of airy-fairy concepts that we use in daily life. That really is, I like to say, the chink in the armour of mystery that surrounds the question “what is life?”. I think we begin to see that if information can have causal leverage over matter, then that opens the way to understanding how we might adapt the laws of physics to incorporate this information thing, which is at the heart of what makes life tick. Tushna Commissariat, “Life, the universe and everything: an interview with Paul Davies” at PhysicsWorld

In a world where some believe that consciousness must be a material thing, perhaps it’s not surprising that others seek to see information as a physical quantity. Computer scientist Robert J. Marks would ask, what is the weight difference between a full CD and an empty one? Could we start there?

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See also: Paul Davies: The Really Tough Question Is How Life’s Hardware Can Write Its Own Software

Physicist Rob Sheldon On Paul Davies’ “Life Writes Its Own Software” Claim

Paul Davies And The “Struggle To Define Life”

Paul Davies: Life’s Defining Characteristics “Better Understood As Information”


How can consciousness be a material thing?

Evade! Evade! This is rather tedious, is it not? ScuzzaMan
AA, the trick with Rosetta is, it's not just any weight loss, it is functionally specific, organised, complex, informational weight loss. Here, in linguistic patterns that were a famous case of decoding. Ponder the equally FSCO/I rich case of D/RNA and proteins in the cell. KF kairosfocus
Never mind a CD, what about the Rosetta Stone? Since the text is carved into the stone the more information it contains the less the stone weighs. aarceng
A few related notes: Immaterial information, contrary to the materialistic presuppositions of Darwinian evolution, is now found not to be 'emergent' from a material basis as is presupposed in Darwinian thought, but is now empirically shown to be its own distinct physical entity that is separate from matter-energy. A distinct physically real entity that has, of all things, a quote unquote ‘thermodynamic content’.
Demonic device converts information to energy – 2010 Excerpt: “This is a beautiful experimental demonstration that information has a thermodynamic content,” says Christopher Jarzynski, a statistical chemist at the University of Maryland in College Park. In 1997, Jarzynski formulated an equation to define the amount of energy that could theoretically be converted from a unit of information2; the work by Sano and his team has now confirmed this equation. “This tells us something new about how the laws of thermodynamics work on the microscopic scale,” says Jarzynski. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=demonic-device-converts-inform
And these experiments demonstrating the physical reality of ‘immaterial information’ have now been further refined to the point of building an ‘information engine’:
Information engine operates with nearly perfect efficiency – Lisa Zyga – January 19, 2018 Excerpt: Physicists have experimentally demonstrated an information engine—a device that converts information into work—with an efficiency that exceeds the conventional second law of thermodynamics. https://phys.org/news/2018-01-efficiency.html
But what is most striking about this engine that is powered by immaterial information is that it is the ‘knowledge of the particle’s position’, aka Maxwell’s demon, that enables information to have an efficiency that exceeds the conventional second law of thermodynamics. As Professor Renato Renner states, “Fifteen years ago, “we thought of entropy as a property of a thermodynamic system,” he said. “Now in information theory, we wouldn’t say entropy is a property of a system, but a property of an observer who describes a system.”,,,
The Quantum Thermodynamics Revolution – May 2017 Excerpt: the 19th-century physicist James Clerk Maxwell put it, “The idea of dissipation of energy depends on the extent of our knowledge.”,,, Fifteen years ago, “we thought of entropy as a property of a thermodynamic system,” he said. “Now in information theory, we wouldn’t say entropy is a property of a system, but a property of an observer who describes a system.”,,, https://www.quantamagazine.org/quantum-thermodynamics-revolution/
An 'observer' who has 'knowledge of the particle's position' is very interesting to look at. First off, the 'positional information' of an organism is not reducible to the sequential information in DNA. At about the 41:00 minute mark of the following video, Dr. Wells, using a branch of mathematics called category theory, demonstrates that, during embryological development, 'positional information' must somehow be added to the developing embryo, ‘from the outside’, by some ‘non-material’ method.
Design Beyond DNA: A Conversation with Dr. Jonathan Wells – video (41:00 minute mark) – January 2017 https://youtu.be/ASAaANVBoiE?t=2484
The amount of 'positional information' coming into a embryo during development is immense. Vastly outstripping, by many orders of magnitude, the amount of sequential information contained within DNA:
“There is also a presumption, typically when we talk about our genome, (that the genome) is a blueprint for making us. And that is actually not a proven fact in biology. That is an assumption. And (one) that I question because I don’t think that 4 billion bases, which would be 8 billion bits of information, that you would actually have enough information to specify a human being. If you consider for example that there are a quadrillion neural connections in the human brain, that’s vastly more neural connections in the human brain than there are bits (of information) in the human genome. So,,, there’s got to be something else going on that makes us what we are.” Doug Axe – Intelligent Design 3.0 – Stephen C. Meyer – video https://youtu.be/lgs6J4LqeqI?t=4575 In a TED Talk, (the Question You May Not Ask,,, Where did the information come from?) – November 29, 2017 Excerpt: Sabatini is charming.,,, he deploys some memorable images. He points out that the information to build a human infant, atom by atom, would take up the equivalent of enough thumb drives to fill the Titanic, multiplied by 2,000. Later he wheels out the entire genome, in printed form, of a human being,,,,: [F]or the first time in history, this is the genome of a specific human, printed page-by-page, letter-by-letter: 262,000 pages of information, 450 kilograms.,,, https://evolutionnews.org/2017/11/in-a-ted-talk-heres-the-question-you-may-not-ask/
In other words, ‘immaterial positional information’ is now empirically shown, directly contrary to the reductive materialism of Darwinian evolution, to be a physically real entity that is separate from matter-energy and this ‘top down’ immaterial positional information is immense, vastly outstripping the information contained within DNA. As well this 'immaterial positional information' must necessarily be coming into the developing embryo 'from the outside'. Moreover, this immaterial positional information is also now empirically shown to be property “of an observer who describes a system.” In other words, immaterial mind is also now empirically shown to be necessary in order to give us an adequate account as to how any particular organism may achieve its basic ‘form’, via the positional information coming into it 'from the outside' during development . Simply put, we now have fairly strong scientific evidence backing up the Theistic claim that God formed each of us in our mother's womb.
Psalm 139:13-14 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
"I think we begin to see that if information can have causal leverage over matter" Is he seriously proposing that the information does NOT have to have an associated device in order to make stuff MOVE? We just write "01010010" on a package and it takes itself to Alaska? vmahuna

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