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  • Ben Schumacher - What is Information? Insights from Quantum Physics

  • Monday, September 18, 2006 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EDT
    LWSN 3102
    Purdue University

    Dr. Ben Schumacher, Kenyon College presenting.

    Information permeates every corner of our lives and shapes our universe. Understanding and harnessing information holds the potential for significant advances. The breadth and depth of underlying concepts of the science of information transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries of scientific and commercial endeavors. Information can be manifested in various forms: business information is measured in dollars; chemical information is contained in shapes of molecules; biological information stored and processed in our cells prolongs life. So what is information? In this talk we first attempt to identify the most important features of information and define it in the broadest possible sense. We subsequently turn to the notion and theory of information introduced by Claude Shannon in 1948 that served as the backbone for digital communication. We go on to bridge Shannon information with Boltzmann's entropy, Maxwell's demon, Landauer's principle and Bennett's irreversible computations. We point out, however, that while Shannon created a successful and beautiful theory of information for communication, a wide spread application of information theory to economics, biology, life science and complex networks seems to be still awaiting us. We shall discuss some examples that recently crop up in biology, chemistry, computer science, and quantum physics. We conclude with a list of grand challenges for future research. We hope to list educated questions, rather than answers, to the issues and tools that lay before researchers interested in information.