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Three-atom fridge? So everything IS information…

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From Natalie Wolchover at Quanta:

In recent years, a revolutionary understanding of thermodynamics has emerged that explains this subjectivity using quantum information theory — “a toddler among physical theories,” as del Rio and co-authors put it, that describes the spread of information through quantum systems. Just as thermodynamics initially grew out of trying to improve steam engines, today’s thermodynamicists are mulling over the workings of quantum machines. Shrinking technology — a single-ion engine and three-atom fridge were both experimentally realized for the first time within the past year — is forcing them to extend thermodynamics to the quantum realm, where notions like temperature and work lose their usual meanings, and the classical laws don’t necessarily apply.

“Many exciting things have been thrown on the table, a bit in disorder; we need to put them in order,” said Valerio Scarani, a quantum information theorist and thermodynamicist at the National University of Singapore who was part of the team that reported the quantum fridge. “We need a bit of synthesis. We need to understand your idea fits there; mine fits here. We have eight definitions of work; maybe we should try to figure out which one is correct in which situation, not just come up with a ninth definition of work.”

Oppenheim and Popescu fully agree with Hänggi that there’s a risk of downplaying the universe’s physicality. “I’m wary of information theorists who believe everything is information,” Oppenheim said. “When the steam engine was being developed and thermodynamics was in full swing, there were people positing that the universe was just a big steam engine.” In reality, he said, “it’s much messier than that.” What he likes about quantum thermodynamics is that “you have these two fundamental quantities — energy and quantum information — and these two things meet together. That to me is what makes it such a beautiful theory.” More.

But steady on. The universe obviously isn’t “just a big steam engine” any more than it is just a giant cabbage. But it may very well be all information. These guys can back away from the idea if they want but it can still be true.

See also: Philip Cunningham: Everything IS information I was surprised to learn that, counter-intuitive to materialistic thought (and to every kid who has ever taken a math exam), a computer does not consume energy during actual computation but will only consume energy when information is erased from it,,, such as what happens when a computer’s memory is cleared or with the merging of two computation paths where you put in two bits into a logical operation, and you get one bit out. This counter-intuitive fact of energy expenditure during erasure is formally known as Landauer’s Principle.

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7 Replies to “Three-atom fridge? So everything IS information…

  1. 1
    Dionisio says:

    “I’m wary of information theorists who believe everything is information,” Oppenheim said.

    Doesn’t he realize that his anxiety doesn’t change reality?

    Anyway, why is he wary of what others believe?
    Why is he bothered by that?

    BTW, everything isn’t information. Information is a created nonmaterial entity. Hence there’s a creator of information.

    My project leader had a brilliant idea which he explained to me and my fellow programmers in order to develop and implement it in computers. His idea was just functional complex specified information that initially was conceived in his mind and later he translated to technical specifications for us to follow as marching orders.

  2. 2
    Dionisio says:

    “Rewriting the theory from the bottom up has led experts to recast its basic concepts in terms of its subjective nature,…”

    Bottom-up research of a top-down design.
    Seen that before, haven’t we?

    In the top-down design example @1 the main idea was conceived in general terms which were later described to the developers in more details.

  3. 3
    Dionisio says:

    “If we go further and further down [in scale], we’re going to hit a region that we don’t have a good theory for,” Anders said.

    Isn’t that happening in biology these days?

  4. 4
    Dionisio says:

    Peter Hänggi, a vocal critic at the University of Augsburg in Germany, thinks the importance of information is being oversold by ex-practitioners of quantum computing, who he says mistake the universe for a giant quantum information processor instead of a physical thing.

    What makes his idea right? How does he know he’s right?
    Actually, they all could be wrong.
    BTW, where did that giant quantum information processor come from? How did it appear?

  5. 5
    Dionisio says:

    “…the theoretical literature is all over the place.”

    The biology evo-devo case is in much worse shape.
    The pseudoscientific literature full of theoretical hogwash is all over the place.

  6. 6
    Dionisio says:

    “We need a bit of synthesis. We need to understand your idea fits there; mine fits here. We have eight definitions of work; maybe we should try to figure out which one is correct in which situation, not just come up with a ninth definition of work.”

    In biology the situation could be described like this:

    “We need a bit of synthesis. We need to understand your idea fits there; mine fits here. We have eight definitions of _______; maybe we should try to figure out which one is correct in which situation, not just come up with a ninth definition of _______.”

    Fill in the blank? evolution, gene, whatever.

  7. 7
    Querius says:

    Dionisio wondered

    Doesn’t he realize that his anxiety doesn’t change reality?

    Perhaps he’s hoping that it does.

    -Q

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