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New Scientist astounds: Information is physical

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We are told,

Running a brain-twisting thought experiment for real shows that information is a physical thing – so can we now harness the most elusive entity in the cosmos?

Recently came the most startling demonstration yet: a tiny machine powered purely by information, which chilled metal through the power of its knowledge. This seemingly magical device could put us on the road to new, more efficient nanoscale machines, a better understanding of the workings of life, and a more complete picture of perhaps our most fundamental theory of the physical world. More.

That hardly makes information physical; if anything it would show that the universe in which we live is not ultimately controlled by physical forces. But we would need to pay to find out what the New Scientist writer has in mind.

The last time this idea whistled through, couple years back,  the alleged substance was called perceptronium.

For an introduction to what information really is, see Data Basic.

By the way, re New Scientist’s (and the New York Times’s) constant whining for subscriptions, enough! Please, folks, I’d pay a quarter to read your article. I don’t want to hear from you for the rest of my life on that account. You people need a business model that survives the internet. Some sort of a ticker on PayPal maybe.

No, we don’t expect New Scientist to pay attention to such an idea either. They’ll more likely go looking for free money in terms of bigger grants from donorcrats or government.

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One Reply to “New Scientist astounds: Information is physical

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Actually, in quantum mechanics, information is held to be its own distinct physical entity that is separate from matter or energy. A distinct physical entity that is capable of performing some fairly impressive physical tasks that are not possible for matter or energy alone.

    Quantum Entanglement and Information
    Quantum entanglement is a physical resource, like energy, associated with the peculiar nonclassical correlations that are possible between separated quantum systems. Entanglement can be measured, transformed, and purified. A pair of quantum systems in an entangled state can be used as a quantum information channel to perform computational and cryptographic tasks that are impossible for classical systems. The general study of the information-processing capabilities of quantum systems is the subject of quantum information theory.
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-entangle/

    In fact, it is information, not necessarily matter or energy, that is held to be primarily ‘conserved’ in quantum mechanics:

    Quantum no-hiding theorem experimentally confirmed for first time
    Excerpt: In the classical world, information can be copied and deleted at will. In the quantum world, however, the conservation of quantum information means that information cannot be created nor destroyed. This concept stems from two fundamental theorems of quantum mechanics: the no-cloning theorem and the no-deleting theorem. A third and related theorem, called the no-hiding theorem, addresses information loss in the quantum world. According to the no-hiding theorem, if information is missing from one system (which may happen when the system interacts with the environment), then the information is simply residing somewhere else in the Universe; in other words, the missing information cannot be hidden in the correlations between a system and its environment.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....tally.html

    Quantum no-deleting theorem
    Excerpt: A stronger version of the no-cloning theorem and the no-deleting theorem provide permanence to quantum information. To create a copy one must import the information from some part of the universe and to delete a state one needs to export it to another part of the universe where it will continue to exist.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q.....onsequence

    Of related note to the OP:

    Scientists show how to erase information without using energy – January 2011
    Excerpt: Until now, scientists have thought that the process of erasing information requires energy. But a new study shows that, theoretically, information can be erased without using any energy at all. Instead, the cost of erasure can be paid in terms of another conserved quantity, such as spin angular momentum.,,, “Landauer said that information is physical because it takes energy to erase it. We are saying that the reason it (information) is physical has a broader context than that.”, Vaccaro explained.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....nergy.html

    Quantum knowledge cools computers: New understanding of entropy – June 2011
    Excerpt: No heat, even a cooling effect;
    In the case of perfect classical knowledge of a computer memory (zero entropy), deletion of the data requires in theory no energy at all. The researchers prove that “more than complete knowledge” from quantum entanglement with the memory (negative entropy) leads to deletion of the data being accompanied by removal of heat from the computer and its release as usable energy. This is the physical meaning of negative entropy.
    Renner emphasizes, however, “This doesn’t mean that we can develop a perpetual motion machine.” The data can only be deleted once, so there is no possibility to continue to generate energy. The process also destroys the entanglement, and it would take an input of energy to reset the system to its starting state. The equations are consistent with what’s known as the second law of thermodynamics: the idea that the entropy of the universe can never decrease. Vedral says “We’re working on the edge of the second law. If you go any further, you will break it.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....134300.htm

    Quote of note:

    “The most fundamental definition of reality is not matter or energy, but information–and it is the processing of information that lies at the root of all physical, biological, economic, and social phenomena.”
    Vlatko Vedral – Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford, and CQT (Centre for Quantum Technologies) at the National University of Singapore, and a Fellow of Wolfson College – a recognized leader in the field of quantum mechanics.

    Verse:

    John 1: 1-4
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

    Supplemental notes:

    Molecular Biology – 19th Century Materialism meets 21st Century Quantum Mechanics – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1141908409155424/?type=2&theater

    Scientific (physical) evidence that we do indeed have an eternal soul – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1116313858381546/?type=2&theater

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