Saturday, January 5, 2008 | Categories: Episodes
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The Physics of Information: What the Universe Doesn't Want You to Know
Physicists are not like you and me. That's because they don't see the world the same way we do.
Take information, for instance. When you have a question or an interest in some topic, and you want more information about it, chances are you look for answers by reading a book, searching the Internet, or even listening to a radio program. But that's not how physicists view information. They want to know what it's actually made of. And that idea leads to a whole lot of weird and quirky views of how the universe works.
The Physics of Information was the topic of a recent public forum, sponsored by Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, and moderated by Bob McDonald. And Quirks was there to record the event. Do ideas about information and reality inspire fruitful new approaches to the hardest problems of modern physics? What can we learn about the paradoxes of quantum mechanics, the beginning of the universe and our understanding of black holes, by thinking about the very essence of information? Those are some of the questions our panel tackled.
The panellists for the discussion were:
Dr. Leonard Susskind is widely recognized as one of the most creative researchers in the field of theoretical particle physics. He is a Professor in the Department of Physics at Stanford University. And an Associate Member of Perimeter Institute's Faculty. Dr. Susskind is one of the originators of the holographic principle; he believes that the universe is a three-dimensional illusion created by information encoded on a two-dimensional hologram
Dr. Seth Lloyd is a Professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. His research area is the interplay of information with complex systems, especially quantum systems. He has made contributions to the field of quantum computation and proposed a design for a quantum computer. In his book, Programming the Universe, Dr. Lloyd contends that the universe itself is one big quantum computer producing both ourselves and what we see around us, as it runs a cosmic program. According to Dr. Lloyd, once we understand the laws of physics completely, we will be able to use small-scale quantum computing to understand the universe completely as well.
Dr. Christopher Fuchs is a Long Term Visitor with Perimeter Institute and is an adjunct Professor of Physics at the University of New Mexico. His area of research is Quantum Information and Quantum Foundations. His interests range from quantum channel theory to quantum cryptography to quantum foundations.
Sir Anthony Leggett is from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor, and Center for Advanced Study Professor, of Physics. Dr. Leggett is also member of Perimeter Institute's Scientific Advisory Committee, and the Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Distinguished Research Chair at the University of Waterloo. He is widely recognized as a world leader in the theory of low-temperature physics, and his pioneering work on superfluidity was recognized by the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics.