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Does Energy = Information?

  1. Jun 1, 2006 #1
    After having my "What Is Energy Made Of?" thread running in the Quantum Physics section I learned.. after the some great replies.. that energy is more of an abstract concept that explains interactions, transfers and potentials or storage... many times the analogy of money was used.

    With this in mind I have decided that the Philosophy section might be a better proving ground for the study of the concept of energy so......

    Where does energy come from?

    What is energy?

    Is energy anything at all? (aprez David Letterman)

    Is energy information?

    All replys are appreciated. Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 1, 2006 #2


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    While I will say upfront that I do not think the philosophy section is the best place to host this discussion, I will let it go anyway. I must ask, though, that you clarify the questions, otherwise we're bound to lose focus very quickly or simply never have any to begin with.

    When you ask what energy is, what exactly do you mean by that? It has a fairly precise definition within its usage as a physical quantity, so are you asking what the referrent of this quantity is? How do you propose one goes about answering that?

    With respect to the title of your thread, what is the definition of "information" that you are working with? There are mathematical definitions for the term, of which I frankly have no expertise whatsoever, but what do you mean when you use the word?
  4. Jun 2, 2006 #3
    Thanks for letting this thread go a bit longer.

    Pehaps I should only ask one question... "is energy information?"

    To define "information" I'll use this:

    Now, this is the philosophical part of it because we'll have to define "received" and "understood" to continue from here.


    I'm using this example because it does not simply pertain to a human receiving statistical information (math, literature, imagery etc...). It refers to receiving the influence of a force or event by an object not just an aware organism.


    I chose this example because it describes a condition that is reached or about to be reached (received) and this, without specific reference to an aware organism experiencing an understanding of the condition.

    This is what I'd like to try to narrow down

    The electromagnetic waves (information) generated by the sun are received by the earth and the result (interpretation) is that a variety of forms of life are supported by this event/condition. Is it the information carried by the sun's em waves that sets other processes into play?

    When a hammer hits a nail into a board the information (or energy) of the motion and mass of the hammer is transfered and translated by the nail's motion through the substance of a piece of wood.

    The information that was transfered from the hammer and its motion is now in the form of a nail embedded in wood... splintered wood and a bond between two boards. Of couse the nail holds information (energy) of its own... and so does the wood.

    All of these types of information (energy) interact to arrive at a nail in some wood which may result in the formation (or information) of a structure of some kind.

    So what I'm asking is: "is it information that is contained in the mass and the motion of em waves, hammers, neruotransmitters, electrons etc...... that is transfered from form to form... but we call it energy... not information... or is this too simplistic of a recipe for energy"?!

    Dictonary definition:

    Last edited: Jun 2, 2006
  5. Jun 3, 2006 #4
    Energy is a mysterious force that causes things to move. Energy is not information but it is required to transfer information. Energy can exist without information, but information cannot exist or be transfered without energy.
  6. Jun 3, 2006 #5
    Maybe we are having difficulty with energy =information due to our usage of language. To even describe energy, one needs information , to process, and store that information we realize we need energy.

    So im sorry to ask question here, but , is information existent if no one(cognitive being), nothing(biological being) is existent who could make a "meaning"/"understanding" of the information? [ i guess this will depend on definition of information we agree on]

    i feel we should agree for this thread sake on definition of information we all will understand in this context.

    if i may take a shot at it: information= any pattern that can be expected/used as input and that is used to stimuli or propel transformation.
  7. Jun 3, 2006 #6


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    quantumcarl is probably referring to the classical observation that to "forget information", you have to produce heat.

    Specifically, any isothermic interaction is reversible... whatever "information" was contained in the system is still there after an isothermic intereaction, and can, in principle, be recovered by reversing the interaction.

    So, to actually "forget" information: that is, to undero an interaction that cannot be reversed to recover the original "information", you have to produce heat.

    So, now that I've stated what we want to prove, our goal is to find definitions of all the words so that it's true. :Smile:
  8. Jun 4, 2006 #7


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    I'm not sure why we would call it information, is it just a semantics issue or something more? Information is not independent of how it is interpreted. Depending on how you interpret a sequence of electrical signals the information you'll retrieve will vary. In fact, for each possible block of information there is a way to interpret that information such that your interpreter will produce every possible value.
    I don't disagree with calling it information, because it is that, just that this information doesn't have an actual value, the value will vary depending on how we choose to read it.
  9. Jun 4, 2006 #8


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    Then do away with the interpretation -- the sequence of electrical signals itself would be information!
  10. Jun 4, 2006 #9


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    Ok. I thought it was being proposed that this information encoded something some higher level message, for some reason.
  11. Jun 4, 2006 #10
    Now, since a thing may be open to energy, but closed to information, the two may not have the same identity as relates to a thing. For example the electron, as a fundamental thing that exists it is open to energy but closed to information. Thus the answer to the OP would seem to be no, energy and information may represent distinct aspects of any thing that exists.
  12. Jun 4, 2006 #11
    id like to think of information and matter as the same thing. one could derive that information holds a kinda potential energy because it can be reproduced. since the universe is full of matter information is everywhere. think of it traveling all around us. it appears unique when it stabilizes in matter and even more unique when it developes the ability to reproduce. information is made of a signal and a receiver in any medium. the signal could be any form of energy, wave, mater moving through space time. It is a controling force. it seems to almost always have a goal. It is mutated easily when reproduced for some reason. we measure information to get values of dimesions and interpret reality. it is quite unique in my eyes.
  13. Jun 4, 2006 #12


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    What do you mean by "open" and "closed"? Can you propose a definition of energy and information that would agree with this statement?

    You can't derive that it has potential energy unless you show that information is involved in a conservation of energy law. :tongue:

    Why do you say that information can be reproduced? If I xerox a sheet of paper, have I really reproduced information? Might I not have the same amount of information I had originally? Or even lost some information in the process?

    This sounds more like you're talking about how information is transferred. But maybe that's the same thing!
  14. Jun 5, 2006 #13
    You can't derive that it has potential energy unless you show that information is involved in a conservation of energy law. :tongue:

    .....lol......I think it would be the reproduction of it that would increase its potential energy. this would have to be measured over time. some loss of its real value is almost always assured because of time.

    Why do you say that information can be reproduced? If I xerox a sheet of paper, have I really reproduced information? Might I not have the same amount of information I had originally? Or even lost some information in the process?

    the xerox had a beginning value which is hard to maintain. technology of the last century has focused on reproducing information while maintaining its integrity. a machine. but information travels without machines and technology, affecting everything around it. its potential, clearly unmeasured. obviously the xerox has doubled your real paper while maintaining most of its info value. now your new paper will influence its receiver to release energy to your mutual goal. this might be as simple as reading the paper or developing some new more complex strategy that would require alot of energy release. the information itself being the limiting factor.

    This sounds more like you're talking about how information is transferred. But maybe that's the same thing![/QUOTE]

    ITs like the old saying, believe nothing you hear and half of what you see.

    lets say that there is only so much information in the universe. a potential of what it can accomplish. we are just unlocking it in small intervals.
  15. Jun 5, 2006 #14

    jim mcnamara

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    Hurkyl - what about entropy and your isothermic reaction example?

    In plain English an isothermic process occurs at the same temperature.

    The First law of Thermodynmics says that 'You can't create or destroy energy'. The Second Law says 'Energy in equals energy out plus entropy' (from a chemical reaction in this example).

    So, assuming these Laws are correct your example defies Law #2. IFF I understand your point.

    Here's why. Since we can't lose energy, it must mean that in any transformation (like the isothermic example you gave) the output side must have lost something. Other than energy. Whatever it lost went to entropy. Since we can't lose energy we must have lost information.

    In other words, the starting arrangement of molecules in a system doesn't reform exactly the way it originally existed after an "isothermic" transformation. .... if we care to posit that such structure is information.

    People use this argument all the time to say that the 2nd Law dictates "Time's Arrow" or, to argue that systems lose information (Shannon's H) under any transformation. Because of the "deduction" imposed by entropy. Since information is usually deemed to be the opposite of randomness, the argument goes that entropy increases randomness in a closed system.

  16. Jun 5, 2006 #15

    A thing is "open" if an operation on the thing results in a transformation to a new thing, "closed" if no transformation results (e.g., the thing remains the same). Now, consider a single electron (e-). It can be acted on by energy in the form of positron (e+) and a transformation results. Thus the (e-) is "open" to energy. However, the information of the single electron as a fundamental existent is 1.0 (e.g., the electron is the electron) and thus no additional information can be added to it--it is "closed" to information. So, a general statement may be--energy transforms things, information transforms sets of things. The single electron being thus a "thing", and not a "set of things", is open to energy and closed to information. If my logic errors, please correct.
  17. Jun 5, 2006 #16
    ok, If any transformation occurs, you add time and see that its information has obviously changed. any information being a 1 is the hardest to crack. use time to see its changes. information changes as it moves. it is moving all around us. because of time, it is always stored in a medium------->everything!
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2006
  18. Jun 6, 2006 #17
    Wow. I didnt think the thread would last over night...!... and here you guys are going at it like it was fun!!!

    Anyway... thanks for the input. Hurkyl and one other person figures we'd better find a place for "information" in the conservation of energy law. Where could we find that.... hmmmmm.

    What I'm seeing is that the law itself is a form of information. All events are governed by that law... and by the information contained in the law.

    If anyone could help me be wrong or right about that please feel free!
  19. Jun 6, 2006 #18
    You can't derive that it has potential energy unless you show that information is involved in a conservation of energy law.

    The Law of Conservation of Energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can change its form.

    as energy changes form over time its information has changed also
  20. Jun 6, 2006 #19
    The fact that information changes over time does not exclude it from being "information".

    Also... I realise now, after a few minutes of thinking about it, the conservation law is about "energy" and I'm trying to equate "energy" with "information".

    So, how would the "conservation of information" law look!? (discarding government cover ups etc.....:wink: )

    It would look like this.......... the conservation of information is a necessary law because if the amount of information contained in any and I mean any event would be catastrophic if it were unleashed in a single moment. Not only would it be catastrophic... it would be very confusing and there would be no structure (or "formation") that would result. There'd just be a mass of squiggley stuff that would be gone as soon as it happened.

    PS. I'm sorry but I can't find who thought this thread was about "higher information" being beamed down from some celestial grand poobah. I have to categorically say that this thread is about energy and what the heck it is. That's all..... eh!
  21. Jun 6, 2006 #20


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    Sometimes i prefer to think of energy as the curvature of space in a given region. I don't know how valid this interpretation is, but sometimes it's helpful.
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