© NASA/JPL-Caltech
An artist’s conception of dark energy.
Der er mange teorier om hvad der danner grundstenene af universet. Nogle fysikere siger at det er subatomiske partikler. Andre tror at det er energi eller endog rum-tid. En af de mest radikale teorier foreslår at information er det mest elementære element i kosmosset. Selvom dennne tankegang stammer fra midten af det 20. århundrede, så ser det ud til at nyde godt af lidt af en renæssance hos en lille kerne af prominente videnskabsmænd idag.

Forestil dig at hvis vi kendte til den præcise komposition af universet og alle dets egenskaber og havde nok energi og know-how at trække på, så kunne vi teoretisk set reducere universet til 1-ere og 0-ere og bruge den information til at rekonstruere det fra bunden op. Det er informationen siger fortalere for dette syn, som er låst indeni ethvert enkelkomponent som tillader os at manipulere stof på enhver måde vi ønsker det. Det ville selvfølgelig tage en kompleksitet på et guddommeligt niveau, et mesterværk kun opnåeligt af en type V civilisation på Kardashev skalaen.

Matematikeren og ingeniøren i det midten af 20 århundrede Claude Elwood Shannon, er set som skaberen af informationsteorien. Selvom kun få kendte ham udenfor de videnskabelige kredse, så er han idag hyldet som "faderen til den digitale tidsalder." Shannon's geniale ide kom i 1940 ved MIT [Massachusset Institute of Technology], da han bemærkede forholdet mellem Boolean algebra og telefoncentralbordene.

© Getty Images
Claude E. Shannon with his electronic mouse. Bell Labs, 1952.

Kommentar: Denne artikel er delvis oversat til dansk af Sott.net fra The basis of the Universe may be Information, not energy or matter


Soon after, he was hired by Bell Labs to devise the most efficient way to transfer information over wires. In 1948, he penned A Mathematical Theory of Communication, essentially laying the foundation for the digital age. Shannon was the first to show that mathematics could be used to design electrical systems and circuits.

Before him, it was done through expensive model-making, or mere trial and error. Today, Boolean algebra is used to design communication and computer systems, hardware, software, and so much more. Basically, anything that generates, stores, or transfers information electronically, is based on Shannon's tome.

That's not all. Shannon defined a unit of information, the binary unit or bit. Bits are a series of 0s and 1s, which help us to store and recall information electronically. Moreover, he was the first to transform data into a commodity. Its value he said was proportional to how much it surprised the consumer.

In addition, he connected electronic communication to thermodynamics. What's now called "Shannon entropy," measures the disorder or randomness inherent in any communications system. The greater the entropy, the less clear the message, until it becomes unintelligible. As for information theory, he developed that during World War II, while trying to solve the problem of sending an encrypted message over a static-ridden telephone or telegraph line.

© Getty Images
Claude E. Shannon laid the groundwork for communication technology.
To look at information theory from a quantum viewpoint, the positions of particles, their movement, how they behave, and all of their properties, give us information about them and the physical forces behind them. Every aspect of a particle can be expressed as information, and put into binary code. And so subatomic particles may be the bits that the universe is processing, as a giant supercomputer. Besides quantum mechanics, since Shannon elucidated it, information theory has been applied to music, genetics, investment, and much more.

Science writer James Gleick, author of The Information, contends that it wasn't Shannon, but early 19th century mathematician Charles Babbage, who first called information the central component of all and everything. Babbage is credited for first conceptualizing the computer, way before anyone had the ability to even build one.

The eminent John Archibald Wheeler in his later years was a strong proponent of information theory. Another unsung paragon of science, Wheeler was a veteran of the Manhattan Project, coined the terms "black hole" and "wormhole," helped work out the "S-matrix" with Neils Bohr, and collaborated with Einstein on a unified theory of physics.
© By Deutsch: Ute Kraus, Wikimedia Commons
Physicist John Wheeler coined the term black hole.
Wheeler said the universe had three parts: First, "Everything is Particles," second, "Everything is Fields," and third, "Everything is information." In the 1980s, he began exploring possible connections between information theory and quantum mechanics. It was during this period he coined the phrase "It from bit." The idea is that the universe emanates from the information inherent within it. Each it or particle is a bit. It from bit.

In 1989, Wheeler produced a paper to the Santa Fe institute, where he announced "every it--every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself--derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely--even if in some contexts indirectly--from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits."

A team of physicists earlier this year announced research conclusions that would make Wheeler smile. We might be caught inside a giant hologram they state. In this view, the cosmos is a projection, much like a 3D simulation. What's weird is that the laws of physics operate well in a 2D quantum field within a 3D gravitational one.

It's important to note that most physicists believe that matter is the essential unit of the universe. And information theory's proof is limited. After all, how would you test for it?
© Getty Images
Is the universe a giant hologram inside a supercomputer?
If the nature of reality is in fact reducible to information itself, that implies a conscious mind on the receiving end, to interpret and comprehend it. Wheeler himself believed in a participatory universe, where consciousness holds a central role. Some scientists argue that the cosmos seems to have specific properties which allow it to create and sustain life. Perhaps what it desires most is an audience captivated in awe as it whirls in prodigious splendor.

Modern physics has hit a wall in a number of areas. Some proponents of information theory believe embracing it may help us to say, sew up the rift between general relativity and quantum mechanics. Or perhaps it'll aid in detecting and comprehending dark matter and dark energy, which combined are thought to make up 95% of the known universe. As it stands, we have no idea what they are. Ironically, some hard data is required in order to elevate information theory. Until then, it remains theoretical.

To learn more about information theory as the basis of the universe, click here: