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Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Can you answer these conundrums about information?

Biological Information

To facilitate discussion, we are publishing the abstracts of the 24 papers from the Cornell Conference on the Origin of Biological Information here at Uncommon Descent, with cumulative links to previous papers at the bottom of each page.

An excerpt from Introductory Comments by Robert J. Marks II for Section One, Information Theory & Biology:

All agree there is information in biological structure and function. Although the term information is commonly used in science, its precise definition and nature can be illusive, as illustrated by the following questions:

• When a paper document is shredded, is information being destroyed? Does it matter whether the shredded document is a copy of an un-shredded document
and can be replaced?

• Likewise, when a digital picture is taken, is digital information being created or merely captured?

• The information on a DVD can be measured in bits. Does the amount of information differ if the DVD contains the movie Braveheart or a collection of randomly generated digital noise?

• When a human dies, is experiential information lost? If so, can birth and experience create information?

• If you are shown a document written in Japanese, does the document contain information whether or not you know Japanese? What if instead, the document is written in an alien language unknowable to man?

The answers to these questions vary in accordance to the information model used. However, there are properties of information common to all models. As noted by Norbert Wiener [1, 2], the father of cybernetics:

“Information is information, neither matter nor energy.”

Care to take a stab at answering any of these questions? Mikes are live.

Note: All conference papers here.

See also: Origin of Biological Information conference: Its goals

Origin of Biological Information conference: Origin of life studies flatlined

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27 Responses to Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Can you answer these conundrums about information?

  1. semi related note:

    “The theoretical (information) density of DNA is you could store the total world information, which is 1.8 zetabytes, at least in 2011, in about 4 grams of DNA.”
    Sriram Kosuri PhD. – Wyss Institute
    Information Storage in DNA by Wyss Institute – video
    https://vimeo.com/47615970

  2. I’ll attempt these questions, just for fun. My answers are purely my own opinion.

    • When a paper document is shredded, is information being destroyed? Does it matter whether the shredded document is a copy of an un-shredded document and can be replaced?

    Yes. I worked in a specialty laboratory for five years and we had to shred many reports due to HIPAA compliance regulations. The information might not mean anything to someone unfamiliar with pathology reports, but it was (protected) information nonetheless.
    • Likewise, when a digital picture is taken, is digital information being created or merely captured?
    Truthfully, I don’t know. I would say both. You are creating a digital image in pixels of something, but you are also capturing an image of something at a particular moment in time.
    • The information on a DVD can be measured in bits. Does the amount of information differ if the DVD contains the movie Braveheart or a collection of randomly generated digital noise?
    If the amount of information is the same number of bits, then the answer is no. However, the bits that contain the movie “Braveheart” are presumably more informative and entertaining than the bits that contain randomly generated noise.
    • When a human dies, is experiential information lost? If so, can birth and experience create information?
    Yes. There is an African proverb that states “when an older person dies, a library is lost” (my paraphrasing). The adage of attending “the school of hard knocks” tells us that experience leads to information that we use in life; if our experience was good, we repeat our actions. If not, we avoid those actions. I don’t know about birth creating information, because I don’t think anybody can really remember that far back into their lives. My earliest memories begin at age 2.
    • If you are shown a document written in Japanese, does the document contain information whether or not you know Japanese? What if instead, the document is written in an alien language unknowable to man?
    Yes, the document contains information regardless of whether or not I can read it. And yes, if aliens write something down and we can’t figure it out, it doesn’t mean that it’s not informative. It’s informative to the aliens. For some reason, the line “It’s a cookbook!” is in my head now.

  3. When a paper document is shredded, is information being destroyed? Does it matter whether the shredded document is a copy of an un-shredded document and can be replaced?

    If there are only 2 copies in existence, and one is destroyed…the information remains. So though the first is destroyed, the information remains. But if the second is destroyed, the information is destroyed.
    So one copy is like a subset of the Information Whole. 1000′s of copies could be destroyed with no degradation of the whole. Yet one copy (if the last) would destroy the whole. Very strange.

  4. All agree there is information in biological structure and function. Although the term information is commonly used in science, its precise definition and nature can be illusive, as illustrated by the following questions:

    I hate to nitpick, but “illusive” is not what the good professor had in mind (or at least I hope not). This isn’t a good omen for a work that has supposedly been reviewed prior to publication by someone, somewhere.

  5. • If you are shown a document written in Japanese, does the document contain information whether or not you know Japanese? What if instead, the document is written in an alien language unknowable to man?

    Interesting question – good topic for a seminar. My first reaction is the thought that all information must reside in a medium (although I’m open to objections). Also, according to some papers I’ve briefly read, information is always a message, which requires a sender and a receiver (among other things). So if no one can read a message from a sender is it information? Did the Rosetta Stone contain information before it was deciphered? Do encrypted messages contain information if no one has the key? More questions than answers . . .

  6. owendw writes, information is always a message, which requires a sender and a receiver (among other things). So if no one can read a message from a sender is it information?

    If there is a sender, then logically there must be a receiver. If the message does not get to the intended receiver, this does not mean that there is no information contained in the message.

  7. Here is one of the scenarios among many, which I have used over the years to finally resolve to myself that information is in the mind of the beholder so to speak. The upshot is that without the existence of mind as a factor to permeate any particular problem involving information theories, the problem is nonsensical. I will come back to my motivations for this thinking at the end.

    The scenario I can propose starts out as follows. Shannon based his work on statistical communications, in which a desired signal is transmitted over a channel and is corrupted by a “noise” signal or mathematically speaking a stochastic disturbance arithmetically added to the injected signal. He confined his theory to the case of Gaussian noise with flat spectrum, called ‘white noise’. Shannon proved that to pack the most, that is the absolute maximum transfer rate of information into a given power level of a signal channel, the signal to be injected at the source end must also appear as absolutely stochastic. The methods for doing this can never be absolutely perfect, but in modern systems this was effectively accomplished in the ’90′s, and one example of the success of this was the appearance of 56k dial-up modems, and notice how that was the upper limit of what could be done over phone lines. The methods for arriving at this plateau have been called ‘turbo codes’ and have been in practice multiple digital coding techniques applied in cascade to randomize the information bitstream to a high degree of randomness. Now with background done, here is the interesting stuff:

    1. Notice how I used the words “appear as absolutely random” above. This in itself connotes an intelligent observer.

    2. It just so happens that one of the physical effects of point #1 above is that the information transmitted will have a power spectrum that is flat (or very nearly so in practice), equivalent to white noise.

    3. So a person with a degree of intelligence can apply a spectrum analyzer to a channel operating at maximum capacity and have no way to tell if even ANY information is being transmitted, because the channel appears to be only consisting of white noise.

    4. But a person with knowledge of the coding and modulation techniques used at the source can possibly demodulate and decode the information and with discernment understand the transmitted information.

    5. So points 3 & 4 indicate in themselves that the concept of information can only make sense in the context of mind. If that isn’t enough:

    6. Suppose the person mentioned in point #3 has the ability to interrupt the power to the transmitter. Does this confer any ability to extract any information from the scenario? It turns out that it is so. If after cutting power, the observer notices that there is a power drop in channel signal, then he can infer that information transmission has been cut, but not with certainty as the bit stream interrupted may have been digitized Gaussian noise, although extremely unlikely. So the observer has answered a yes/no question, maybe by use of some means of destruction.

    7. Suppose the person mentioned in point #3 applies the spectrum analyzer to the channel after power has been cut. Is there any informational value in this? The answer turns out to be yes. In this case the observer is extracting information from a process or processes. The observer, by examining the noise spectrum can infer information about the noise source. The noise source can be black body radiation, Johnson noise in his equipment, or even cosmic background radiation. Any “peaking” in the noise spectrum would be with the highest level of certainty coming from a man-made source. If such peaking is at multiple(s) of 60 Hz then the source of such peaking can be inferred to be operating on a power distribution line. All of this is to show that information is in the “eye” and mind of the beholder.

    I hope that I can convince with the above that when Darwinists talk of codons, when popular media speak of the genetic code, they are talking information storage, with no reservation. But that when Darwinists assert that information does not imply mind, they are just whistling Dixie. And since you’ve heard Dixie before, any new rendition is superfluous, that is to say, information free. In other words, meaningless.

    If there is any reason/interest to relate why I’m involved in information theory at present, I’ll go into it.

  8. Since information, like beauty or goodness, is not a property of physical matter, it must therefore exist in a separate but complementary realm. You can call this realm “spiritual” if you will but what is certain is that it is just as real as the physical realm.

  9. “owendw writes, information is always a message, which requires a sender and a receiver (among other things). So if no one can read a message from a sender is it information?” – Are memories information? Memories aren’t sent or received unless they are shared with or without a medium. They can be withheld from others but instruct or guide the individual that has them. An individual can teach others the principles learned from his memory without sharing the experience.

  10. To answer a few of the questions posed in the OP I think it is necessary to distinguish between classical information and quantum information. Dembski and Marks show conservation of classical information in that it is held classical information cannot be created by material processes but requires an ultimate source of Intelligence to explain how it came into existence:

    Before They’ve Even Seen Stephen Meyer’s New Book, Darwinists Waste No Time in Criticizing Darwin’s Doubt – William A. Dembski – April 4, 2013
    Excerpt: In the newer approach to conservation of information, the focus is not on drawing design inferences but on understanding search in general and how information facilitates successful search. The focus is therefore not so much on individual probabilities as on probability distributions and how they change as searches incorporate information. My universal probability bound of 1 in 10^150 (a perennial sticking point for Shallit and Felsenstein) therefore becomes irrelevant in the new form of conservation of information whereas in the earlier it was essential because there a certain probability threshold had to be attained before conservation of information could be said to apply. The new form is more powerful and conceptually elegant. Rather than lead to a design inference, it shows that accounting for the information required for successful search leads to a regress that only intensifies as one backtracks. It therefore suggests an ultimate source of information, which it can reasonably be argued is a designer. I explain all this in a nontechnical way in an article I posted at ENV a few months back titled “Conservation of Information Made Simple” (go here). ,,,
    ,,, Here are the two seminal papers on conservation of information that I’ve written with Robert Marks:
    “The Search for a Search: Measuring the Information Cost of Higher-Level Search,” Journal of Advanced Computational Intelligence and Intelligent Informatics 14(5) (2010): 475-486
    “Conservation of Information in Search: Measuring the Cost of Success,” IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics A, Systems & Humans, 5(5) (September 2009): 1051-1061
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....70821.html

    Whereas quantum information shows ‘conservation’ of information to a more foundational level of physics in that it is held that quantum information cannot be created OR DESTROYED by any known material processes:

    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

    Moreover, classical information is found to be a subset of ‘non-local’ (beyond space and time) quantum information by the following method:,,,

    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 is physical has a broader context than that.”, Vaccaro explained.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....nergy.html

    The following put ‘meat on the bones’ to the preceding paper,,

    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

    Quantum entanglement is shown to be related to ‘functional information’ (i.e. Quantum information) here;

    Quantum Entanglement and Information
    Excerpt: 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.
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-entangle/

    Moreover quantum information/entanglement is shown to be at the deepest level of biology, and can be said to be what is ‘holding life together’,, to be what is holding life to be so far out of thermodynamic equilibrium with the environment (10^12 bits measured for a ‘simple bacteria).

    Information and entropy – top-down or bottom-up development in living systems? A.C. McINTOSH – Dr Andy C. McIntosh is the Professor of Thermodynamics (the highest teaching/research rank in U.K. university hierarchy) Combustion Theory at the University of Leeds.
    Excerpt: This paper highlights the distinctive and non-material nature of information and its relationship with matter, energy and natural forces. It is proposed in conclusion that it is the non-material information (transcendent to the matter and energy) that is actually itself constraining the local thermodynamics to be in ordered disequilibrium and with specified raised free energy levels necessary for the molecular and cellular machinery to operate.
    http://journals.witpress.com/paperinfo.asp?pid=420

    One clue of quantum information ‘holding life together’ is that Quantum information/entanglement is shown to pull DNA together:

    DNA Can Discern Between Two Quantum States, Research Shows – June 2011
    Excerpt: — DNA — can discern between quantum states known as spin. – The researchers fabricated self-assembling, single layers of DNA attached to a gold substrate. They then exposed the DNA to mixed groups of electrons with both directions of spin. Indeed, the team’s results surpassed expectations: The biological molecules reacted strongly with the electrons carrying one of those spins, and hardly at all with the others. The longer the molecule, the more efficient it was at choosing electrons with the desired spin, while single strands and damaged bits of DNA did not exhibit this property.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....104014.htm

    Does DNA Have Telepathic Properties?-A Galaxy Insight – 2009
    Excerpt: DNA has been found to have a bizarre ability to put itself together, even at a distance, when according to known science it shouldn’t be able to.,,, The recognition of similar sequences in DNA’s chemical subunits, occurs in a way unrecognized by science. There is no known reason why the DNA is able to combine the way it does, and from a current theoretical standpoint this feat should be chemically impossible.
    http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_.....ave-t.html

  11. Moreover, quantum information is found to explain protein folding as well;

    Physicists Discover Quantum Law of Protein Folding – February 22, 2011
    Quantum mechanics finally explains why protein folding depends on temperature in such a strange way.
    Excerpt: First, a little background on protein folding. Proteins are long chains of amino acids that become biologically active only when they fold into specific, highly complex shapes. The puzzle is how proteins do this so quickly when they have so many possible configurations to choose from.
    To put this in perspective, a relatively small protein of only 100 amino acids can take some 10^100 different configurations. If it tried these shapes at the rate of 100 billion a second, it would take longer than the age of the universe to find the correct one. Just how these molecules do the job in nanoseconds, nobody knows.,,,
    Their astonishing result is that this quantum transition model fits the folding curves of 15 different proteins and even explains the difference in folding and unfolding rates of the same proteins.
    That’s a significant breakthrough. Luo and Lo’s equations amount to the first universal laws of protein folding. That’s the equivalent in biology to something like the thermodynamic laws in physics.
    http://www.technologyreview.co.....f-protein/

    In fact I would be very surprised if quantum information/entanglement was not soon found to be the ultimate source for how ‘biophotons’ are able to influence biological molecules ‘at a distance’

    The Real Bioinformatics Revolution – Proteins and Nucleic Acids ‘Singing’ to One Another?
    Excerpt: the molecules send out specific frequencies of electromagnetic waves which not only enable them to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ each other, as both photon and phonon modes exist for electromagnetic waves, but also to influence each other at a distance and become ineluctably drawn to each other if vibrating out of phase (in a complementary way).,,, More than 1,000 proteins from over 30 functional groups have been analysed. Remarkably, the results showed that proteins with the same biological function share a single frequency peak while there is no significant peak in common for proteins with different functions; furthermore the characteristic peak frequency differs for different biological functions.,,, The same results were obtained when regulatory DNA sequences were analysed.
    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/TheRea.....lution.php

    Quantum computation by quantum information is implicated in some pretty spectacular stuff in molecular biology:

    Quantum Dots Spotlight DNA-Repair Proteins in Motion – March 2010
    Excerpt: “How this system works is an important unanswered question in this field,” he said. “It has to be able to identify very small mistakes in a 3-dimensional morass of gene strands. It’s akin to spotting potholes on every street all over the country and getting them fixed before the next rush hour.” Dr. Bennett Van Houten – of note: A bacterium has about 40 team members on its pothole crew. That allows its entire genome to be scanned for errors in 20 minutes, the typical doubling time.,, These smart machines can apparently also interact with other damage control teams if they cannot fix the problem on the spot.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....123522.htm

    Of note: DNA repair machines ‘Fixing every pothole in America before the next rush hour’ is analogous to the traveling salesman problem. The traveling salesman problem is a NP-hard (read: very hard) problem in computer science; The problem involves finding the shortest possible route between cities, visiting each city only once. ‘Traveling salesman problems’ are notorious for keeping supercomputers busy for days.

    NP-hard problem – Examples
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NP-hard#Examples

    Speed Test of Quantum Versus Conventional Computing: Quantum Computer Wins – May 8, 2013
    Excerpt: quantum computing is, “in some cases, really, really fast.”
    McGeoch says the calculations the D-Wave excels at involve a specific combinatorial optimization problem, comparable in difficulty to the more famous “travelling salesperson” problem that’s been a foundation of theoretical computing for decades.,,,
    “This type of computer is not intended for surfing the internet, but it does solve this narrow but important type of problem really, really fast,” McGeoch says. “There are degrees of what it can do. If you want it to solve the exact problem it’s built to solve, at the problem sizes I tested, it’s thousands of times faster than anything I’m aware of. If you want it to solve more general problems of that size, I would say it competes — it does as well as some of the best things I’ve looked at. At this point it’s merely above average but shows a promising scaling trajectory.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....122828.htm

    Since it is obvious that there is not a material CPU (central processing unit) in the DNA, or cell, busily computing answers to this monster logistic problem, in a purely ‘material’ fashion, by crunching bits, then it is readily apparent that this monster ‘traveling salesman problem’, for DNA repair, is somehow being computed by ‘non-local’ quantum computation within the cell and/or within DNA by the non-local quantum information/entanglement inherent within;

    Quantum Information/Entanglement In DNA – Elisabeth Rieper – short video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5936605/

    Is DNA a quantum computer? Stuart Hameroff
    Excerpt: DNA could function as a quantum computers with superpositions of base pair dipoles acting as qubits. Entanglement among the qubits, necessary in quantum computation is accounted for through quantum coherence in the pi stack where the quantum information is shared,,,
    http://www.quantumconsciousnes.....puter1.htm

    It is good at this point to remember, as I pointed out at the beginning of this post, that quantum information is ‘conserved’ in the strictest sense of physics in that it cannot be created nor destroyed by any known material means. And in remembering that very important point of conservation, it is good to point out what happens at the moment of death:

    The Unbearable Wholeness of Beings – Steve Talbott
    Excerpt: Virtually the same collection of molecules exists in the canine cells during the moments immediately before and after death. But after the fateful transition no one will any longer think of genes as being regulated, nor will anyone refer to normal or proper chromosome functioning. No molecules will be said to guide other molecules to specific targets, and no molecules will be carrying signals, which is just as well because there will be no structures recognizing signals. Code, information, and communication, in their biological sense, will have disappeared from the scientist’s vocabulary.
    ,,,Rather than becoming progressively disordered in their mutual relations (as indeed happens after death, when the whole dissolves into separate fragments), the processes hold together in a larger unity.
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/.....-of-beings

  12. Quantum information/entanglement thus gives us a very plausible mechanism for explaining how Near Death Experiences are possible;

    Near Death Experience – The Tunnel, The Light, The Life Review – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200200/

    “I was in a body, and the only way that I can describe it was a body of energy, or of light. And this body had a form. It had a head, it had arms and it had legs. And it was like it was made out of light. And it was everything that was me. All of my memories, my consciousness, everything.”,,, “And then this vehicle formed itself around me. Vehicle is the only thing, or tube, or something, but it was a mode of transportation that’s for sure! And it formed around me. And there was no one in it with me. I was in it alone. But I knew there were other people ahead of me and behind me. What they were doing I don’t know, but there were people ahead of me and people behind me, but I was alone in my particular conveyance. And I could see out of it. And it went at a tremendously, horrifically, rapid rate of speed. But it wasn’t unpleasant. It was beautiful in fact. I was reclining in this thing, I wasn’t sitting straight up, but I wasn’t lying down either. I was sitting back. And it was just so fast. I can’t even begin to tell you where it went or whatever it was just fast!” –
    Vicki’s Near Death Experience – Blind since birth

    The panoramic life review mentioned in the preceding video is very interesting in that it strongly suggests that even if we tear the last copy of a piece of paper containing information up, the information will never be truly completely lost to reality. Along that line, to show how that may be possible, it bears worth remembering what John Archibald Wheeler (1911-2008) held and what Anton Zeilinger currently holds about the nature of reality:

    “It from bit symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom – at a very deep bottom, in most instances – an immaterial source and explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that things physical are information-theoretic in origin.”
    John Archibald Wheeler

    Why the Quantum? It from Bit? A Participatory Universe?
    Excerpt: In conclusion, it may very well be said that information is the irreducible kernel from which everything else flows. Thence the question why nature appears quantized is simply a consequence of the fact that information itself is quantized by necessity. It might even be fair to observe that the concept that information is fundamental is very old knowledge of humanity, witness for example the beginning of gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word.”
    Anton Zeilinger – a leading expert in quantum teleportation:

    Supplemental note:

    The argument for God from consciousness can be framed like this:

    1. Consciousness either preceded all of material reality or is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality.
    2. If consciousness is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality.
    3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality.
    4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality.

    Four intersecting lines of experimental evidence from quantum mechanics that shows that consciousness precedes material reality (Wigner’s Quantum Symmetries, Wheeler’s Delayed Choice, Leggett’s Inequalities, Quantum Zeno effect):
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G_Fi50ljF5w_XyJHfmSIZsOcPFhgoAZ3PRc_ktY8cFo/edit

    Verses and Music

    Colossians 1:17
    And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

    John 1:1-5
    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. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

    Steven Curtis Chapman – God is God (Original Version) – music video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qz94NQ5HRyk

    Casting Crowns – The Word Is Alive – Live
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9itgOBAxSc

  13. It pains me to say it, but UD has actually posed some interesting questions. I would love to hear what the regulars have to say. And succinct replys please (BA77 Im looking at you)

    1. My guess is that each time you shred a document, you destroy a copy of the information.

    2. My guess is that a camera/photocopier/etc creates a copy of the information (the fact that it is digital is irrelevant)

  14. I suspect that all these questions are merely a result of no definition (or too many) of information. If we had a clear definition, the questions would all disappear.

  15. Well Graham2, I don’t know what I can contribute to your understanding of information for there are many other commentators on UD who you have spoken with that are much more qualified than I to get details from on information and yet, if I recall correctly, you still believe functional information can magically arise by material processes without the need for intelligence even though you have ZERO examples of functional information arising in such a manner. Be that as it may, I kind of liked the lesson I picked up from Dr. Stephen Meyer on information a few years back:

    “One of the things I do in my classes, to get this idea across to students, is I hold up two computer disks. One is loaded with software, and the other one is blank. And I ask them, ‘what is the difference in mass between these two computer disks, as a result of the difference in the information content that they posses’? And of course the answer is, ‘Zero! None! There is no difference as a result of the information. And that’s because information is a mass-less quantity. Now, if information is not a material entity, then how can any materialistic explanation account for its origin? How can any material cause explain it’s origin?
    And this is the real and fundamental problem that the presence of information in biology has posed. It creates a fundamental challenge to the materialistic, evolutionary scenarios because information is a different kind of entity that matter and energy cannot produce.
    In the nineteenth century we thought that there were two fundamental entities in science; matter, and energy. At the beginning of the twenty first century, we now recognize that there’s a third fundamental entity; and its ‘information’. It’s not reducible to matter. It’s not reducible to energy. But it’s still a very important thing that is real; we buy it, we sell it, we send it down wires.
    Now, what do we make of the fact, that information is present at the very root of all biological function? In biology, we have matter, we have energy, but we also have this third, very important entity; information. I think the biology of the information age, poses a fundamental challenge to any materialistic approach to the origin of life.”
    -Dr. Stephen C. Meyer earned his Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of science from Cambridge University for a dissertation on the history of origin-of-life biology and the methodology of the historical sciences.

    As a Christian Graham2, I personally can tell you some information that I definitely don’t ever want to see being erased in any way, shape, or form. My name from the book of life!

    Revelation 3:5
    He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.

    And for something that is barely related to all this, or perhaps it is strongly related,, but anyways, as you have probably seen before if you have read any of my posts on Near Death Experiences, in this following video, at around the 3:22 minute mark, the 3-Dimensional world ‘folds and collapses’ into a tunnel shape around the direction of travel as a ‘hypothetical’ observer moves towards the ‘higher dimension’ of the speed of light,,

    Approaching The Speed Of Light – Optical Effects – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5733303/

    and Graham2, as I repeatedly point out when I reference that video, the 3-Dimensional world folding and collapsing into a tunnel shape, as a ‘hypothetical observer’ moves towards the higher dimension of the speed of light, finds correlation to Near Death Experience testimonies of people who go through a tunnel to a higher heavenly dimension,, to a ‘realm of light’ if you will,,

    Ask the Experts: What Is a Near-Death Experience (NDE)? – article with video
    Excerpt: “Very often as they’re moving through the tunnel, there’s a very bright mystical light … not like a light we’re used to in our earthly lives. People call this mystical light, brilliant like a million times a million suns…”
    - Jeffery Long M.D. – has studied NDE’s extensively
    http://abcnews.go.com/Nightlin....._gydvW8jbI

    The NDE and the Tunnel – Kevin Williams’ research conclusions
    Excerpt: I started to move toward the light. The way I moved, the physics, was completely different than it is here on Earth. It was something I had never felt before and never felt since. It was a whole different sensation of motion. I obviously wasn’t walking or skipping or crawling. I was not floating. I was flowing. I was flowing toward the light. I was accelerating and I knew I was accelerating, but then again, I didn’t really feel the acceleration. I just knew I was accelerating toward the light. Again, the physics was different – the physics of motion of time, space, travel. It was completely different in that tunnel, than it is here on Earth. I came out into the light and when I came out into the light, I realized that I was in heaven.
    Barbara Springer

    But the reason I bring up the 3-Dimension world folding and collapsing into a tunnel shape Graham2 is that people are talking about shredding paper documents in this thread, yet with the correct structure of reality now being revealed being as follows:

    1. material particles (mass) normally reduces to energy (e=mc^2)
    2. energy and mass both reduce to information (quantum teleportation)
    3. information reduces to consciousness (geometric centrality of conscious observation in universe dictates that consciousness must precede quantum wave collapse to its single bit state)

    The ‘Top Down’ Theistic Structure Of The Universe and Of The Human Body
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NhA4hiQnYiyCTiqG5GelcSJjy69e1DT3OHpqlx6rACs/edit

    Then I think some people really have the wrong perspective on just how important information really is as to the overall construction of reality, and I hold that the proper way to look at all this is the reverse as to how materialists look at it:

    Revelation 6:14
    The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

    I know, I know, Revelation is a highly symbolic book of the Bible and is not to be taken too literally,,, but with the structure of reality resting on a information/consciousness basis as far as I can tell from quantum mechanics, and with the tunnel that is revealed by relativity, then that particular scripture, regardless of just how symbolic it may be, really sticks out for me,,, Who knows,, What if???

    Creed – What If (Video)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkHjFzw1TUg

  16. BA77: Is any of that screed relevant to the questions ?

    I am genuinely interested to see what answers the regulars come up with, when the earth rolls round to the US time zone I guess.

  17. as to: “BA77: Is any of that screed relevant to the questions ?”

    Yes. Meyer’s quote specifically. And if you deal the issues raised in that quote honestly then it leads you deeper into the issue of whether information is real or merely platonic, and the answer to that question is that it is real, as I also referenced with my notes.,,, But I hold little hope of you ever dealing honestly with the first issues raised by Meyer’s quote, thus, of course, nothing I said will make sense to you!

  18. Groan. Alright, take a guess at the 1st question, explaining your answer by some reference to what you think information is.

    Remember now, succinct.

  19. As stated in post 10, to answer a few of the main questions posed in the OP I think it is necessary to first distinguish between classical information and quantum information.

    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

    Moreover, classical information is found to be a subset of ‘non-local’ (beyond space and time) quantum information by the following method:,,,

    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 is physical has a broader context than that.”, Vaccaro explained.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....nergy.html

    The following put ‘meat on the bones’ to the preceding paper and shows that quantum information can delete classical information,,

    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

    Moreover, Graham2, you, as a materialist, believe that information ‘emerges’ from a material basis, but that is wrong, the correct structure of reality is found to be that material reduces to a quantum information basis,,

    Ions have been teleported successfully for the first time by two independent research groups
    Excerpt: In fact, copying isn’t quite the right word for it. In order to reproduce the quantum state of one atom in a second atom, the original has to be destroyed. This is unavoidable – it is enforced by the laws of quantum mechanics, which stipulate that you can’t ‘clone’ a quantum state. In principle, however, the ‘copy’ can be indistinguishable from the original (that was destroyed),,,
    http://www.rsc.org/chemistrywo.....ammeup.asp

    Atom takes a quantum leap – 2009
    Excerpt: Ytterbium ions have been ‘teleported’ over a distance of a metre.,,,
    “What you’re moving is information, not the actual atoms,” says Chris Monroe, from the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland in College Park and an author of the paper. But as two particles of the same type differ only in their quantum states, the transfer of quantum information is equivalent to moving the first particle to the location of the second.
    http://www.freerepublic.com/fo.....1769/posts

    How Teleportation Will Work -
    Excerpt: In 1993, the idea of teleportation moved out of the realm of science fiction and into the world of theoretical possibility. It was then that physicist Charles Bennett and a team of researchers at IBM confirmed that quantum teleportation was possible, but only if the original object being teleported was destroyed. — As predicted, the original photon no longer existed once the replica was made.
    http://science.howstuffworks.c.....ation1.htm

    Quantum Teleportation – IBM Research Page
    Excerpt: “it would destroy the original (photon) in the process,,”
    http://researcher.ibm.com/view_project.php?id=2862

    So the answer to the question is that, from the perspective of the classical world, yes information can be copied and deleted at will, but in the quantum world information cannot be created or destroyed.

    supplemental note:

    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

    i.e. Quantum mechanics shows information to be real not platonic!

  20. So you are not going to try to answer the questions.
    Fair enough.

  21. 21

    I’d be happy to answer the questions in the OP, but first, a bit of disambiguation is in order.

    Information has identifiable properties because it has material effects; and in fact, the translation of information turns out to have a material signature which is singularly unique among all physical phenomena. Parsimony therefore places all forms of information in a single class of thing, based on their singlular physical reality.

    In any case, you can go through each of these properties and build a compound definition of information that can be used to identify it among all other things. Firstly, information is about something. It is form (the incomplete form of a thing) recorded in the arrangement of a medium. In other words, it is not the form itself; but is an abstraction of form. Secondly, information is a class of thing which must operate within a local system in order to produce an effect. Information is therefore the form of a thing instantiated in the arrangement of medium which can evoke a specific effect within a local system. Thirdly, information (as an arrangement of matter) must be physicochemically arbitrary to the effect it evokes (this is a physical necessity of the system). Therefore, information is the form of a thing instantiated in the arrangement of a material medium, which can evoke a specific effect within a local system, where the arrangement of the medium is physicochemically arbitrary to the effect it evokes.

    If you cover those bases, you may have an instance of information.

    Here’s the kicker – if you could not see (experience, demonstrate, measure) the material effect of an instance of information, you could not distinguish that instance of information from any other arrangement of matter. And here’s a second kicker – because information requires a system to produce an effect (i.e. a semiotic system), the required existence of that system draws two considerations into view. The first is the fact that the system must be capable of producing the effect specified by the information. This means the system must have the appropriate protocol(s) to do so. A protocol is a second arrangement of matter that establishes the otherwise non-existent relationship between the arrangement of the medium and its resulting effect on a system. Missing or altered protocols obviously have an impact on the production of those effects. Secondly, because the effects of information are not established globally by inexorable law (but are instead established locally by having the appropriate protocol in a system) the products of these systems are therefore subject to error, change, and noise. We humans, as investigating agents, have rightfully tended to describe those useful (functional) products of semiotic systems as “information” (i.e. meaningful text, the means by which a bat finds food in the darkness, a bee’s dance, an ant’s pheromone). On the other hand, we generally describe those products of such systems that do not contribute to function with such words as “error”, “change”, and “noise”. In keeping with this useful distinction, in order to confirm an instance of “information”, that information must produce unambiguous function within a system. One can certainly suggest that the production of error/change/noise is equivalent to the production of function (which is tantamount to saying that the production of non-fruntion is the same as the production of function) but that is far more of a comment about the existence of an actual semiotic system (a singularly unique physical phenomenon) than it is about the useful distinction between function and error/change/noise. And besides, if we go there, we put ourselves in the position of misunderstanding the role of information within physical systems. And on a more practical front, we would eviscerate the word “information” of all its meaning, and we would immediately need a new word for those arrangements of matter that actually produce the unambiguous function that pervades the living kingdom.

    - – - – - – - – - –

    So to the questions in the OP:

    When a paper document is shredded, is information being destroyed? Does it matter whether the shredded document is a copy of an un-shredded document
    and can be replaced?

    Yes the recorded information is destroyed (because the medium is destroyed, even if the form it was originally about remains). And obviously, a new recording can replace the destroyed recording.

    Likewise, when a digital picture is taken, is digital information being created or merely captured?

    Form is being captured; information (i.e. a record of form contained in the arrangement of a medium) is being created.

    The information on a DVD can be measured in bits. Does the amount of information differ if the DVD contains the movie Braveheart or a collection of randomly generated digital noise?

    If noise is the same thing as information, then we’ll need a new word for “information”.

    When a human dies, is experiential information lost? If so, can birth and experience create information?

    I think there are parts of this question that should be obvious, but on the whole, this question may not be defined enough to answer, and if it was as clear as it could possibly be, perhaps no answer could be given.

    If you are shown a document written in Japanese, does the document contain information whether or not you know Japanese? What if instead, the document is written in an alien language unknowable to man?

    Assuming the document contained information from the start, the document still contains that information regardless of whether you have the protocols to understand it. You simply cannot demonstrate it, nor can you confirm that it is there.

  22. How disappointing, looks like this OP will fade away unnoticed. I was really keen to see what the ID crowd had to say. If you want to carry on about the ‘source’ of ‘information’ etc etc, you should at least have thought about these questions.

  23. Why fain false disappointment Graham2 ? , as an atheist, no matter what anyone else says or shows you to the contrary, you will, as far as I can tell, always maintain that Intelligence had no part whatsoever in the generation of any information that we may be looking at. Thus, since you come to the table with a stacked philosophical deck, I certainly see no reason for your disappointment save for propaganda purposes.

  24. I think I mentioned it before: the source of the information mentioned in the OP is irrelevant to this discussion (I think). You are just making all that up. Amazing as it may seem to you, I am genuinely interested in the questions, particularly the one about the forign language (does the Voynich manuscript contain information?).

    The information may be a train timetable, its not important to the questions posed.

    and its ‘feign’ … look it up.

  25. Well Graham2, apparently you are concerned enough with information to correct me on my spelling of the word ‘feign’ but are not concerned enough with information to bother with the bigger questions of where does it actually come from (save to deny that it comes from Intelligence). Go figure.,,, You say, in indignant defense to my observation that you are really just a insincere atheist in all this with an agenda, that you are “genuinely interested in the questions, particularly the one about the forign language”, (in a statement where you ironically misspelled the word foreign right before you corrected me on the word feign), but I hold that you are not truly concerned with how all this relates to ‘foreign’ information,,, because in DNA, as the following article points out, we are dealing with a ‘foreign’ language that has a far greater impact on our lives than any undecipherable train timetable (if that’s what it is) could ever possibly have on us.

    The “Wow! signal” of the terrestrial genetic code – March 2013
    Excerpt: Here we show that the terrestrial code displays a thorough precision-type orderliness matching the criteria to be considered an informational signal. Simple arrangements of the code reveal an ensemble of arithmetical and ideographical patterns of the same symbolic language. Accurate and systematic, these underlying patterns appear as a product of precision logic and nontrivial computing rather than of stochastic processes (the null hypothesis that they are due to chance coupled with presumable evolutionary pathways is rejected with P-value < 10–13). The patterns are profound to the extent that the code mapping itself is uniquely deduced from their algebraic representation. The signal displays readily recognizable hallmarks of artificiality,,,
    http://gencodesignal.org/

    Ironically, the authors of the preceding paper did not want to sully their paper with ID and said this,,

    Disclaimer: The authors of the paper have no relation to any religious movement or to Intelligent Design.

    So here we have people who, like Francis Crick, believe in panspermia, yet have no relation to ID, but regardless find overwhelming evidence that the genetic code is a ‘foreign’ language. I would think that that particular ‘foreign’ language question, since it in fact resides right inside of you and you could not live without it, would far outweigh any undecipherable train schedule. But apparently not with you atheists! Apparently you guys know that the DNA code, though far, far, more complex than any code ever devised by man, is not a foreign language but is the result of stochastic processes, but, hypocritically, are willing, when it suits your shallow purposes, to concede a foreign language may be present on a undeciphered document

  26. I think the questions posed in the post are interesting. Thats it. No agenda, no tricks.

    I will only try one more time to explain that the OP (and I) are not not discussing the source of the information, just the questions posed.

    You can copy/paste as much as you like.

  27. Graham2, I really don’t think you are sincere. But be that as it may, let me ask you a personal question. Since there is no evidence of purely material processes every generating ant functional information why do you believe that material processes can do as such?

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