Thursday, 22 August 2013

Is information equivalent to energy?

Computer memory (this one is RAM): An example of information being equivalent to an amount of mass.
 A unit of information used by computers is called a bit and is stored as either a 1 or a 0. Different sequences of 1's and 0's translate to different messages for the computer to act on. Normally these sequences are very long so modern programming languages and compilers make it easier for programmers to code in more human friendly languages. These programming languages when compiled will always end up as a sequence of binary code. So the modern computer aids us in naively defining what information seems to be ; it seems to be symbols that when read or accessed change a system. So when the computer reads a sequence of binary code the computer changes in some way e.g. pixels switch colors etc.

As a physicist I immediately think that any system in the world is a physical one i.e. is constructed of matter in space time. So when we talk about changing a system we have to realize that this change has to be some physical change or interaction with other physical systems. If a sequence of 1's and 0's changes the color of a computer screen it must do so by some physical mechanism. It doesn't happen by magic.

Let's suppose that there is a program called colorchange.exe and when activated the screen changes color. The program accesses a sequence of binary code stored in the memory, this code when read causes the computer to change the color of the screen. We know that the screen is made up of LEDs (small light bulbs basically) and we know that light bulbs need to be part of a circuit with a current (flow of electrons). The screen is part of the whole circuitry of the computer and the initial current is provided by the charger. So when colorchange.exe is executed it must cause a change in the current flow of electrons in the circuit to cause the screen to change color. So when it accesses the stored binary code (information) in the memory this code must somehow flow through the circuit to cause a change in the outputs of the circuit. In order for this to happen the stored binary code must be fundamentally a collection of charge (electrons). That is what it is. A '1' in the code is a number of electrons and a '0' is no electrons. So the information to change the color of a screen is really stored as collections of electrons and no electrons.

To cause a change in the screen one must convert work and so the electrons stored as the code when accessed convert their energy to move another piece of the circuit and so on. There is a simple formula for this:

(The formula states that an amount of work W equals a summation of coulomb force of electrons between two points on a line over many line elements).

According to this formula and other basic principles of physics information in a computer converts an electrons energy. Information IS the sum of the electrons energy. This view is again confirmed when we delete information. When you empty your recycle bin the electrons stored in memory compartments gets ejected by the computer and turned to heat in the air. This is partly why your fan is there,  when data gets deleted this data IS energy and hence the electrons energy must be converted to another type without energy loss, the type of energy converted to is heat which is the vibration of molecules, to avoid over heating the fan constantly blows cooler air from the outside and inside the computer. 

A question we can ask is: is the information lost? For example, a picture of your friend on your computer is stored as information. this information is in an ordered form i.e. ordered to be read by the machine.When you permanently delete it, the information is converted to heat which according to statistical mechanics will spread throughout the air... scattered and dissembled.  The information is not lost but converted from an ordered form to a disordered form. This complies with the conservation of energy... energy is not lost but only converted and when energy goes from ordered to disordered in a direction of time then this is just entropy. Entropy is the measure of energy disorder.

I like to use examples to try and explain things and to try and test my current view of a question. My current view is that information essentially is energy. Let's look at something else and try and test that viewpoint. Okay, so I am now looking next to my laptop and see a post-it note with some writing on it 'email university', and 'don't forget med insur'. When I read this post-it I am retrieving information about what I must do in the near future. I am gaining information but unlike the computer the words don't flow to my brain through some circuit, they stay there. I can walk away and they will be there and I will still have the information in my head. What the hell is going on!? Again, let's look at this physically. Like the binary code, writing is a code for a machine.. that machine is our brains. So when the writing code is read by our brains our brain as a physical system will change (the cells in the hippocampus or something change, I am ignorant of the specific mechanism), this change must be a transfer of energy. The reading of the post-it occurs something like this: light from my lamp becomes incident on the post-it, the ink absorbs some wavelengths and reflects dark blue the post-it reflects yellow, these rays become incident on photo-receptor cells in my eye which get converted to electrical current which is sent to my brain and processed by many lobes to form a picture, my brain recognizes language and interprets it and executes it. So the transference of information was REALLY the transference of different energies of light which got converted to electrical currents. 

The writing on the post-it is in the form of ink atoms spread on the post-it, when light becomes incident on it the ink atoms absorb some photon energy and reflect some back etc. I could look at the post-it everyday and get the same information again in the same manner, like the computer could access stored code for a program every time the program is executed; the stored electrons could be replaced in the same way when the stored information is accessed over an over again... a bit like re-filling it in the same way. So the mechanisms are not that different, they all involve some symbols (which mean something in some system) stored physically as energy and these symbols can only be accessed and read by transferring energy or doing work. 

If you think about a few more examples e.g. talking to people (through sound waves) and texting (stored electrons and then beamed by EM radiation) and loads more you soon realize that for a system to access and process information, the language of the symbols must be energy or matter stored in an ordered fashion somewhere. To read these symbols energy must be transferred from that somewhere to the systems processing unit. 

I think this idea may breakdown when we look at quantum systems. If I wanted to know where an electron is i'll send a photon to it and this photon will reflect back etc. i can work out where the electron is by some process like this. However the uncertainty principle see ' ' dictates that when I know precisely where an electron is I lose information about its momentum.. almost infinitely more information is lost than gained. Is it lost? Was the information there in the first place?  Such mindfucking-ness occurs when we talk about information in relation to quantum systems. Don't even get me started on the Hawking information paradox.

This question is an interesting one and it is at the edge of theoretical physics, mathematics and computing. The true mathematical answers have yet to be uncovered, will there be another Kurt Godel like 'Lol we cannot show diss to be true cos derp'? Who knows. Stay alive to find out or take part in its discovery. 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Are modern political instabilities glimpses of a progression to a shared global political system?

Game over for Dictatorships and Corruption?

  2010 witnessed the start of a series of political rebellions in the middle east, nations including; Syria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. The collection of these rebellious protests are known as the Arab Spring. The political situations in these nations favored those who governed it either in a totalitarian fashion, giving them complete power, or through corruption, officials receiving financial gain by abusing their power. Unemployment rates were way above average for Libya (20.7 %  Jan 2010) and around 13% for Egypt (2013 where huge political unrest is happening at this moment) the people of these nations did not have a bright economic future which could have led to some of the initial unrest. Around 60% of Egypt's population is under 30 which is quite staggering compared to nations such as ours where most of the population are around 50 - 60. This statistic is important as a lot of the younger generations who felt neglected by the political system were in huge numbers, so protests were in volume and a demand for political change was huge.

  So economically and politically civilians in the Arabian world were starved of power to live autonomous and independent lives. Civilian rights were stripped by their corrupted leaders who only had power in their focus. In Libya Gaddafi ruled for over 40 years in a strict deluded regime but he thought it was a Utopia:

"I have created a Utopia here in Libya. Not an imaginary one that people write about in books, but a concrete Utopia." - Muammar Gaddafi 
Of course Muammar thought he was living in a Utopia because relative to him he was receiving all the benefits while the nation he swore to lead to prosperity crumbled under his suffocating regime. One Libyan thought:

"Our leader is a tyrant, and he'll kill us all in cold blood," said Hassan el-Modeer, a British-educated engineer. "The world needs to intervene as soon as possible."

Most of the political activity in the Arab spring is to remove a regime by targeting the leader of said regime e.g. Gaddafi in Libya, Mubarak in Egypt, Ben Ali in Tunisia and Bashar- Al Assad in Syria (and the Ba'ath party).

These leaders and their followers in the government have caused the repression of the people of their nations for quite sometime. In Tunisia after Ben Ali was removed a democratic process took place which saw a coalition form between three political parties, the current political and economic situation is still very fragile. However in Egypt and in Syria violent civil resistance continues even after removal of certain leaders. These violent activities are physical battles between two opposing ideas: democracy and autonomy versus kleptocracy, dictatorship and plutocracy (basically the regime wants power and money .... lot's of it and will skin, beat and kill anyone to get it and will call this socialism).

This resistance to antiquated and un-democratic ideas is simply inevitable. The dynamics of the Arab spring has been heavily influenced by the mechanics of the internet and close connections to global neighbors. The censorship in Tunisia etc. did fail in censoring the people from witnessing the lives of humans living in completely different conditions. Through the internet the Arabian people basically saw that other people were living more liberal, tolerant and most importantly happier more fulfilled lives under a democratic system. Why weren't they getting the same treatment? Because they were being suppressed. The internet liberalized and rallied many rebels to the regimes which took away their rights and caused them to conjugate and protest. When there is a possibility of the internet being provided to a few groups in an oppressed nation it is simply inevitable that unrest will gradually form. In North Korea censorship is extreme and communication to the outside is too difficult to cause major unrest, that is why North Korea has remain unchanged for so long.

So with modern social networking and bold political gatherings the Arab world is changing before our very eyes. But why? Why would they want what the secular western world has had for a long time (after their own slightly less extravagant revolutions) ? It is simple. Modern western democracy which promotes; freedom of expression (includes freedom of press which is important for a democracy) , equality, esteemed education which is based on reasoning (most of the time.. sigh) , science and no political indoctrination simply works better than a corrupt dictatorship.. i.e. it provides more freedom and opportunities for better living for the majority of the population. Democracy is not perfect but it is one step ahead of the old school Arabian regimes. That is why they want democracy so they have the ability to guide their own country for the best.

One big difference that is worth noting is that in the Western world the church or religion plays a small role in the governance of a nation. The West is becoming less religious i.e. becoming more skeptical of ideas, scientific, hungry for evidence and resistant to the ideas of religion. In the UK 56% of people who were asked if they were religious said they were not in a census(2011) (1) in the US more people are religious than not but they are falling. I think this is due to their ideas being challenged more frequently and heavily online, on television and by people around them. In a democratic liberal society this is bound to happen and should happen. In an age when science is completely determining how we live our lives, how long we will live and what we can understand about the world it is to no surprise that mystic belief in a entity not of this world will fall in holders.  In relation to the political activity in the East... they will no doubt form infant democracies but we may witness religious unrest between fundamentalist groups and those who fully embrace the liberalism that their new world grants.

I think that gradually and I mean over two centuries or more we will witness second world and third world countries adopt a form of democracy where freedom of expression  and autonomy hold great importance. As the internet and other technologies (transport  and new energy sources such as nuclear power) bring continents together and on a more equal footing a shared consciousness may form where the human world looks more or less the same albeit cultural heritage differences. Steering to a heavily scientific and technologically advanced culture and in relation to civilization types, we would be  aiming at a type 1 civilization SEE Kardashev scale:

To any cultural movement there will always be minorities that will violently resist just because the movement is not in there favor. Terrorists are fueled by fundamentalism or some sort of deluded intolerance and it will take great force to overcome them, so it will be no surprise to still witness terrorism in the near future... be it in real life or cyber space.