- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (November 22, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0471399744
- ISBN-13: 978-0471399742
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,026,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Bit and the Pendulum: From Quantum Computing to M Theory-The New Physics of Information 1st Edition
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Information has a precise definition as the state of a system. The simplest bit of information is an either-or state, a zero or one, up or down, yes or no, or a protein either active or inactive (this last connects biology and information). Any system - an atom, a human, the universe - can be completely described by the answers to a few tens of yes-no questions (20 questions, anyone?); that is, a few tens of bits. An information processor, a computer, is a system that transforms its state, according to rules, into a new state. Do not underestimate the import of all this. The thesis developed in the book is that information is not a formal way of analyzing systems and their behavior. ""Information is real. Information is physical,"" Siegfried writes. And later: ""Information is more than a metaphor -it is a new reality."" And the progression of events through time is computation, so the universe is essentially a huge. If mysterious, computer.
To illustrate, Siegfried begins with the idea of teleportation: ""Beam me up, Scotty."" If teleportation really exists - and Siegfried shows it does in some sense - it would consist of transporting not matter but the complete information about the structure of an object, every molecule of Captain Kirk, in such a way that the information in the previous location is destroyed. In this view of reality, Siegfried says, ""information is the ultimate 'substance' from which all things are made""; witness the light of the recent headlines.
This concept, at most a few decades old in this form, is controversial. Learned opinions vary from complete acceptance to laughing rejection. This book is personal journalism. The author has met with many of the principal movers and shakers. He lets them speak for themselves and recounts his own intellectual journey. He has attended the scientific meetings and read the scientific papers. His primary mentors seem to have been the physicist John Wheeler, a professor of his at the University of Texas, Austin, and the late Rolf Landauer of I.B.M., a primary figure in the physical theory of information (and a deep skeptic about some of the newer directions of exploration).
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From the Back Cover
"An eager, ambitious book. A stimulating, accessible introduction to scientific theory."--Dallas Morning News "An enjoyably quick-paced interdisciplinary survey of the outer limits of scientific thought."--Kirkus Reviews
"Siegfried weaves a provocative and convincing argument. . . . Recommended for an informed audience."--Library Journal "An excellent introduction to the myriad small worlds that can be teased out of our big one."--Publishers Weekly
"A volume of remarkable sweep."--Booklist
Now in paperback, The Bit and the Pendulum explores the radical idea at the center of the new physics of information: everything in the universe, from the molecules in our bodies to the heart of a black hole, is made up of bits of information.Award-winning author Tom Siegfried interviews top scientists-all using "bits" to solve the seemingly unsolvable-and provides a highly accessible introduction to a fundamentally new way of seeing the world. Lively, engaging, and topical, The Bit and the Pendulum shows how the computer and the "bit" are revealing secrets of the brain, the nature of matter, and the workings of the universe.
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