Further to the question, recently raised, as to whether information could be the long-sought missing dark matter, our physics color commentator Rob Sheldon, offers some thoughts:
Materialist thinkers may need to see information as material, whether that approach fits information or not
There is no evidence that information is dark matter or that consciousness is physical but materialists understandably long for evidence that would make their theory more viable.
There’s a couple of metaphysical assumptions going on here that keep this from working. That is, the physics isn’t so bad, it’s the metaphysics.
First: The dark matter problem is real?
I agree, and I think it can be explained by matter clumped in objects bigger than a pea but smaller than an asteroid. In this size range, astronomers cannot detect it with telescopes. The only issue is with an astrophysical model of the Big Bang that says if dark matter were “baryonic”, as in, made out of ordinary stuff–then ratios of Li/H are off etc. My claim is that the astrophysical model is incorrect, as many other people are now saying, so that it cannot rule out ordinary materials. We even have a candidate for this material–comets.
Second: Information has quantized energy?
I’m ambivalent. To begin with, Landauer’s estimate used entropy as the connection between information and energy, and there’s serious problems with equating different sorts of entropy, as our own Granville Sewell has pointed out. And even if we do quantize it, it seems to be attached to ordinary matter. Even the AIP paper cited in the article came up with 1000 proton mass difference in a full and empty Terabyte drive. Considering there are something like 10^24 atoms in the thing, we are never going to get 1:10^21 accuracy to measure this.
Third: Einstein said E=mc^2, so that energy must have a mass?
If it were true that information has energy, then perhaps it would have a mass. But we already have situations, such as gravitational potential energy, where we can’t locate the mass in a gravitationally bound system–like the Earth and Moon. So there are issues with trying to locate the mass associated with the energy.
Fourth: Finally, even supposing that we grant 2 & 3, the location of the mass has to be “outside” the galaxy in order to account for the dark matter attraction. How does information occupy empty space? Landauer would have said it couldn’t.
There’s just way too little to go on here.
Experimental physicist Rob Sheldon is also the author of Genesis: The Long Ascent and The Long Ascent, Volume II