For a physicist, all the world is information. The universe and its workings are the ebb and flow of information. We are all transient patterns of information, passing on the recipe for our basic forms to future generations using a four-letter digital code called DNA.
In this engaging and mind-stretching account, Vlatko Vedral considers some of the deepest questions about the universe and considers the implications of interpreting it in terms of information. He explains the nature of information, the idea of entropy, and the roots of this thinking in thermodynamics.
He also describes the bizarre effects of quantum behaviour - effects such as "entanglement", which Einstein called "spooky action at a distance", and explores cutting-edge work on harnessing quantum effects in hyperfast quantum computers, and how recent evidence suggests that the weirdness of the quantum world, once thought limited to the tiniest scales, may reach into the macro world.
Vedral finishes by considering the answer to the ultimate question: where did all of the information in the universe come from? The answers he considers are exhilarating, drawing upon the work of distinguished physicist John Wheeler. The ideas challenge our concept of the nature of particles, of time, of determinism, and of reality itself.
©2010 Vlatko Vedral (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
l'enfer c'est les autres
The author takes a very complicated subject and makes it understandable. He tells you what he's going to tell you, says it and then tells you what he said. He really does connect the dots between information and quantum theory. As he says, "information is physical" and explains what he means by that.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
There are parts of this book I liked quite a lot, but other parts were weak and other sections did not tie together. I think the author is kind-of on the right track but has quite a ways to go to get to compelling. For a brief introduction to information theory it is quite nice, but this does not tie information theory to reality.
If you are interested in learning about quantum physics, this is a great read. When you are finished with the book, you will have a general understanding of quantum physics as well as the critical role information plays in the formation of our reality. The chapters step nicely through the theory and the narrator’s slow tone is perfect for a topic that requires digestion as you listen to it. This is a book that can be understood by anyone despite the complex topic.
The content of this book is presented in a manner that I believe would be friendly to people without a serious background in physics - I only took a minor in physics in college with no formal coursework in quantum mechanics, so I think I can make that judgment properly - and the notion of quantum information theory is something that relates to everyone's "everyday" life. However, the narration is annoying in a way that's hard to quantify - almost too conversational at points that should be more serious, something just "not right" for the subject matter. Still worth the listen in my opinion though - I've listened to the whole thing twice in fact..
I don't think the author establishes his thesis here, but it is a fun ride. He ranges in and out of biology, financial markets, and other areas with the common thread based on (a nimbly but simplistically-explained version of) Claude Shannon's information theory. I think sometimes he overestimates his knowledge and his (few) formulas' applications (his confident proclamations about finance being an example). But, there is virtue in this ease and simplicity, in that it allows a very loose and imaginative walk, connecting disciplines and ideas, in ways I had been searching for, and a listenable way. So, I will continue to make disciplined studies in these fields, while feeling richer from his imaginative whirlwind tour. Some thinkers serve us best by drilling unerringly into the technicalities and presenting rigorous proofs; others, like this, have a lighter step that poses possibilities to us.
I really liked the book it grew on me . it's not very technical however that's fine for an audio book
A guy who loves to learn.
Getting to the last chapter.
Pondering THAT last chapter after the deep exploration of how information plays into every aspect of everything in every way you never knew then adding this whole quantum mechanics thing to it. It's crazy.
It's like science telling you that you literally create the world when you observe it and then it creates meaning for you by giving you more unique information to observe and vice versa.
Then as all these ideas start to gel in your mind you start realize that, life, language, conscious thought and meaning, economies, and potentially any psychosis you may or may not have all, from an informational standpoint are all different version of the same thing.
Then you start thinking about the relationship between entropy (randomness in the universe) and information (the order that life creates through it's observation) which is, as our conscious understanding of the universe grows, becomes more stable and complexity so does randomness within the physical universe. Thats nuts.
It means that as we learn the universe literally gives us more to learn, and it's not that nature will confirm what we know. It will predominately, just like a mutation to a strand of DNA - one mistake in million most of the time kills the developing fetus, provide more random observable events that will disprove what we thought we knew.
You can see where this leads right? We're, as humans, machines built to create meaning from new information at higher and higher levels of complexity. We never question our quest for knowledge, but it always for that "thing" that will make everything make sense, and well that's the one thing that can never happen.
It's also ironic that we, as humans, tend to search for the confirmation of what we think might be true all day and everyday, but the universe primarily provides possibilities for us to observe things that will tell us what it isn't. It has to because there has to the potential for infinite possibilities for it and us to exist.
If you only know what something isn't then, sure, that creates distinctions but you can never know what you don't know so there's always an infinity of possibilities within that range. It's like the buffer for everything to exist.
Anyways, I'm still going through all the possibilities mentally right now as you probably see. The book has created a shift in perspective completely, in that one distinction alone. Life wants order so it wants to confirm it's right so it's safe. That's why we act as we do, but then we also observe random negative things happen in the physical world like earthquakes and assign negative meanings to them as if they confirm something. Maybe... I don't know.
I'd just say that understanding of meaning has shifted dramatically because of this relationship between life and physical world.
Ohh! One last new distinction, if life is necessary, or some observer needs to be present for anything that isn't life to exist then it means that we're (things that live and store complex information) integrally important. The sun needs us just as much as we need it (but we're the only one's that it. haha...)
The conclusion is one of those I'll listen to at least 20 more times. To come to a point where a person can explain to you how something comes from nothing and how it happens all the time and then shares exactly how it's happening right now and it's us, as we observe it that creates that it.
To truly understand how nothing exists until we observe it is mind boggling.
The ONLY negative thing here in this book was that the author did on several occasions bring up concepts like god and free will and would then argue against them as if you as the reader necessarily take that stance. It was strange and felt out of place to me.
Here in this highly scientific context devoting a few large segments to concepts we create because we need meaning when there isn't any so we we create it. It didn't feel scientific. It felt very forced and kinda manipulative in that the arguments he'd set up for the imaginary "free will" believer didn't make sense and was unfounded so it was easy to poke holes in and then demolish.
All in all though, way worth it for the quantum shift in my own perspectives and the ability to explore them.
I greatly enjoyed this book. I was intrigued and convinced by his conclusion that the universe is essentially informational. However, he does very poorly in trying to prove that this information comes from nothing. It seemed that he was trying awfully hard to avoid divine implication. I'm not sure why science writers can do so well with the intricacies of quantum mechanics and be such poor philosophers.
Vedral set out to write a book for the non-scientist and did an amazing job of making complex concepts simple. However, I feel to some degree the concepts were, at times, made too simple. The scientifically minded non-physicist need only read the epilogue to understand Vedral's entire argument. He has published over 200 academic papers. I was hoping this book would, in addition to introducing the history and current understanding of information theory, give more of a summary of his own work. Such a summary could really help a scientifically minded non-physics get a better understanding of his entire body of work without having to sift through all of his papers. I would like the book to have been twice as long so that it could have addressed things in a deeper, less simplistic, way.
Vedral's simplistic approach did have it's advantages. And, not matter how simple or complex the approach, Vedral's concepts are among my favorites of any scientist. Vedral provides extremely accessible introductions to Shannon's information theory, Botlzmann's entropy, Maxwell's Demon, the holographic principle, quantum computing (which was particularly excellent and simplified for the interested reader), and more.
Above all, Vedral helps the reader see the universe in an entirely different way, as pure information. Unlike other authors who get caught up in philosophical arguments that frustrate a great number of readers, Vedral's perspective is always quite solid and easy to follow. For this reason alone, anyone interested in information theory should make this a must read.
As an aside, Michael Brooks provided a vary short summary of Vedral's work and information theory in general in his book At the Edge of Uncertainty. It is an even more condensed summary than Vedral's book. But, it is worth reading if you have an interest in the field.
I'm quite a fan of popular science books and science fiction and somehow have never listened to anything quite like this. I'm about 10 minutes in and I'm trying to figure out a way to speed this audio up (which is proving difficult within iTunes and the AA format). I may have to put it on my iPod which at least allows me to change the playback speed.
So to review, the narrator is so slow in speaking it's infuriating, I really suggest listening to a sample first, something I neglected to do. If I can find a way to speed this up it might prove to be an interesting book, Amazon reviews seemed ok. Unfortunately speed won't give the narrator any intonation or emotion, although it might make the whole thing bearable. I'd rather have the computer's robot voice read it to me, or dare I say it, read it myself!
I've had probably 20 audio books from Audible and this is by far the worst. It's a shame since I'm very curious to see what the author has to say about the subject of information and the universe. I guess I'm spoilt by fantastic books like Death by Black Hole and The Short History of Nearly Everything, both of which I've listened to many times and would recommend highly.
Sorry for the rant, I just hope that having a review might help someone else avoid the same situation, I wish there was a review before I used MY credit on it!
Superb book on the nature of information & reality. Felt the same sense of awe on reading about quantum physics for the first time as a child.
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