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What is information? The Universe-Machine versus the Universe-Word

March 24, 2021 , 13:00 14:00

Speaker: Prof. Michał Kurzyński
Affiliation: Faculty of Physics, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poznań, Poland

Link to MSTeams meeting

In the mid-nineteenth century, the second law of thermodynamics and the theory of the origin of species challenged the principle of mechanical determinism. Twentieth century physics responded to this with the theory of dynamic instability and introduced the concepts of slow and frozen dynamic variables, considered next in non-equilibrium thermodynamics and the theory of phase transitions. The basis was the fluctuation-dissipation theorem, valid only not far from the thermodynamic equilibrium. In the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries the general fluctuation theorem was formulated, valid for nanoscopic physical systems arbitrarily far from equilibrium. Amongst many other things, this theorem explains how Maxwell’s demon can operate consistently with thermodynamics. Thus, the demon must have a memory and in order to use fluctuations to do the work, it saves and clears information about fluctuations in this memory. Information turns out to be a process function, of the same nature as work, heat or the free energy dissipation. This finding is important when describing the operation of molecular nanomachines, both of biological and artificial origin. Information is also the starting point for creating virtual reality, not necessarily coinciding with the actual one. Just as it was the great challenge for the twentieth century to distinguish the useful work products from the rubbish that are filling huge landfills, the great challenge for the present century will be to distinguish the useful information from that what needs to be thrown in the trash.

Seminar language: English
Chairman: Prof. Sławomir Breiter