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.
Letting the rest of the world go by
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.
To put it badly: this book is a scam. Feels like random pick of 1 page each from 40 other books on information theory / quantum mechanics.
To put it nicely: the entire book is a trailer/teaser for a proper book on information theory / quantum mechanics. But it is a 9hr trailer with a lot of dull moments.
An enlightened ascetic who loves language and learning.
It is not pleasant to accuse an author of plagiarism and the allegation is rarely irrefutable. However, the evidence that Dr. V. Vedral incorporated ideas originally presented in my book Mind, Matter, Mathematics, & Mortality (M4): Musings on a Momentous Metaphysical Theory (Amen-Ra, 2011), is far too glaring to ignore. First and foremost, his thesis is identical to mine. Namely, he maintains that the fundamental nature of reality can be understood entirely in terms of information—more pointedly, that information constitutes reality. However, it is clear that Dr. Vedral’s thesis is derivative in that he provides no logical sequence of reasoning to support the hypothesis or model, whereas M4 does. Readers of both books will notice at least five additional parallels: (I) The identical name of one of his chapters (Creatio ex Nihilo); (II) The use of the same extended quote from Lord Bertrand Russell in the same context of the “the heat death of the universe” owing to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics; (III) “The Hierarchical Nature of Scientific Disciplines” (my terminology) to describe the increasing informational complexity of the various branches of science; (IV) The invocation of the ideas of Sir Karl Popper—the notable philosopher of science—to provide an evaluative criterion of sorts [M4 ends with an entire exposition entitled “A Popperian Peroration” that does essentially the same.]; (IV) Reference to the film The Matrix, as exemplifying the intuitiveness of an informational interpretation of reality and (V) Invocation of elements of Eastern philosophy to (presumably) propound the notion that the Ancients’ understanding of nothingness is relevant to modern metaphysical thinking. [It should be noted that although M4 appeared in complete e-book form in 2011, extended excerpts and the contents page was published on my website beginning in 2005-2006. Thus, the author of Decoding Reality had a half-decade to apprise himself of my ideas.]
As both books are rather brief, the independent occurrence of so many similarities is improbable (unless the truth of the model is adjudged extremely evident to individuals of a certain intellectual orientation). Unfortunately, Dr. Vedral introduces ideas including casino gambling, stock market investing, quantum computing, social network theory, and even an uniformed dietary discourse that detracts decidedly from the overarching thesis of the book. This incoherence only illustrates that he has failed to argue convincingly for the validity of the Informational Metaphysical Hypothesis (as we might describe it). It would be unbecoming to promote my own book at the expense of Dr. Vedral. I shall resist this natural temptation and instead advise all readers interested in this fascinating perspective to acquire J. Gleick’s, The Information—a truly original and momentous work that is, happily, available from Audible.
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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