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Powers of Two Edwin A. Valentijn

Powers of Two By Edwin A. Valentijn

Powers of Two by Edwin A. Valentijn

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Powers of Two Summary

Powers of Two: The Information Universe - Information as the Building Block of Everything by Edwin A. Valentijn

Is everything Information? This is a tantalizing question which emerges in modern physics, life sciences, astronomy and in today's information and technology-driven society. In Powers of Two expert authors undertake a unique expedition - in words and images - throughout the world (and scales) of information. The story resembles, in a way, the classic Powers of Ten journeys through space: from us to the macro and the micro worlds . However, by following Powers of Two through the world of information, a completely different and timely paradigm unfolds. Every power of two, 1, 2, 4, 8.... tells us a different story: starting from the creation of the very first bit at the Big Bang and the evolution of life, through 50 years of computational science, and finally into deep space, describing the information in black holes and even in the entire universe and beyond.... All this to address one question: Is our universe made of information? In this book, we experience the Information Universe in nature and in our society and how information lies at the very foundation of our understanding of the Universe.

From the Foreword by Robbert Dijkgraaf:

This book is in many ways a vastly extended version of Shannon's one-page blueprint. It carries us all the way to the total information content of the Universe. And it bears testimony of how widespread the use of data has become in all aspects of life. Information is the connective tissue of the modern sciences. [...] Undoubtedly, future generations will look back at this time, so much enthralled by Big Data and quantum computers, as beholden to the information metaphor. But that is exactly the value of this book. With its crisp descriptions and evocative illustrations, it brings the reader into the here and now, at the very frontier of scientific research, including the excitement and promise of all the outstanding questions and future discoveries.

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About Edwin A. Valentijn

Prof. Dr. Edwin A. Valentijn (1952) is professor of Astronomical Information Technology at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen, the Netherlands. His research focusses on dark matter and Big Data information systems handling astronomical imaging surveys. In 2002 he founded, and he still leads, the astronomical data centre OmegaCEN; since 2008 he has coordinated the Target initiative to port astronomical technologies to other disciplines. Valentijn founded the Target Holding company and the NL data center for the Euclid satellite. Currently, he leads the Target Field Lab with research programmes on Virtual reality and Facts and Fakes recognition. Valentijn initiated and is creative director of a digital planetarium, DOTliveplanetarium, in Groningen.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Robbert DijkgraafChapter 0: IntroductionJoy-riding the Universe - by the authorWorking as an astronomer, data scientist and professor of astro-informatics for nearly fifty years, Edwin Valentijn has witnessed and first-hand engineered the dawn of the era of Big Data in science and society. Throughout his career, he became increasingly aware of the role of information in our world: in computers, in our society, and even in nature and in the Universe itself.
The Information UniverseFollowing the increasing powers of two, the story paints a journey through the whole world of information, both in society and in nature. Each step opens a door into a new world: from the first bits with the Big Bang and the dawn of life, going through fifty years of human technology, all the way up to the information content of the whole Universe.
What is Information? - Item pageThe basics of information are introduced.
Chapter 1: The beginningSpace-time foam - Ti (0 bit: 20 =1)The very first power of two: 20, corresponds to the value one. This identifies the single, eternal, indistinguishable state: the primordial sea from which our Universe emerged - sometimes called the Space-time foam. I call this Ti, the reverse of It. This is one of the miraculous new notions in the story of the Powers of Two.
Multiverse: Anthropic principle (Item page)From Ti, the primordial space-time foam, countless universes arise with widely different characteristics: the Multiverse. The Anthropic Principle is a philosophical consideration which states that we, people, will find ourselves in a universe that is suitable for intelligent life to emerge. Therefore, this Principle demonstrates that conditions in our Universe are not fine-tuned to the existence of human life and a creator doesn't exist.
Big bang (1 bit: 21 =2 states)At the Big Bang the first bit is created. From the indistinguishable unity of the primordial foam Ti, the zeros were separated from the 1's: the first bit corresponds to two possible states. This bit is the first step on our journey to capture the ever-increasing complexity of our expanding Universe in terms of information, through the increasing powers of two.
What is a bit? (Item page)The bit is at the core of the concept of information. A bit is any system that can have two states. Humans assign meanings to these states, which are illustrated with the concept of the traffic light: red or green, stop or go. The combination of multiple bits creates an exponentially increasing number of possible states, and hence meanings.
Multicellular life (2 bit: 22 =4 states) / (4 bit: 24 =16 states)?Life started with exchanging information between cells. This is fundamental for the evolution of any kind of life. It took at least two billion years for uni-cellular to evolve into multi-cellular organisms around 600 million years ago, and to start the exchange of information between their different cells. By exchanging information, cells collaborate and act as a unified whole: life.
The game of life (Item page)The characteristic features of life (or any complex system in the Universe) can be created from information. A simple computer game is all you need to demonstrate this concept. A famous example is Conway's Game of Life, which is full of visuals of living, growing, moving and dying objects. This game was already made on the computers of the early 70's with just a few lines of code.
Chapter 2: People's Information UniverseASCII (7 bit: 27 =128 states)There is currently no physical theory how the digital world connects to the human consciousness. In the world of Information Technology (IT) all information exchange is based on agreements between people. For instance, ASCII, a simple list relating each letter of the alphabet to a 7-bit string, connects the digital world to the human consciousness.
Machu Picchu (8 bit: 28 =256, 1 byte)The Intiwatana stone, a giant rock carved by the Inca's of ancient Machu Picchu in Peru, can be considered as a first 8-bit hard disk. Why so? As the sunrays lit the different surfaces of this huge rock throughout the year, it triggered the Inca's activities: sowing, harvesting, celebrating and praying.This ancient stone dissolves both the boundaries between heaven and earth, and those between the digital and natural Information Universe. In fact, the stone represents an ultimate picture of the cross-over between the in vivo and the in vitro Information Universe - a main theme of the book. In vitro being the man made technology to handle information and in vivo being the information built in nature, in this case the orbit and the light rays of the sun.
First computers (16 bit: 216 =65.536, 2 byte)When computers emerged in the 1970's, astronomers first adopted them to steer their telescopes. Back then, a maximal effort to understand the mathematics of the problem was needed to squeeze the solution into the small computer memory. Nowadays, with large amounts of computing power and machine learning at their disposal, scientists and computer programmers often do the reverse.
Star Peace vs. Star Wars (Item page)King Juan Carlos adored the harmony of galaxies as a source of inspiration for people on earth, in those days when Ronald Reagan was promoting his Star-wars programme. With this adoration in mind, in 1985, he gave an inspiring speech at the Royal inauguration of the international astronomical observatory on La Palma, Canary Islands. The inauguration was attended by, for those days, an unprecedented large crowd of European royals and government officials despite the great threat of terrorist attacks by the ETA. (the next and later spreads on facts vs fakes elucidate the relevance of this spread in the story line).
Pre-internet Facts and Fakes (Item page)Edwin Valentijn saved the life of the Dutch Queen Beatrix by catching her just before falling off a cliff at the inauguration on La Palma, according to the headlines in Dutch newspapers. Fake news-stories are at all times alike and can only be dispelled by tracing links of information to their source, links or associations being a fundamental property of the Information Universe. Later, I discuss the less innocent case of overdrawing attention to terrorist attacks in the past decade.
Hard disk (24 bit: 224 =1.6*107, 2 Mb)Only sixty years ago, a 5 MB hard disk weighed over five tons, and had to be loaded onto an aeroplane by using a truck. Now, we carry a thousand times more information in our trouser pocket. This demonstrates the amazing advance of information technology over the past decades. (Picture: first IBM hard disk loaded onto a plane).
The telephone (Item page) As a precursor of the Internet, the telephone offered many of the same advantages and dangers, and was heavily discussed at its introduction. Whether telephone or the Internet, it all revolves around communication or copying of information. The telephone, as example of it, is one of the major discoveries of the 20th century.
DNA (32 bit: 232 = 4*109, 500 Mb) - Guest author: Charley Lineweaver The information in the DNA creates life. All base pairs of the human DNA can be stored on a 500 Mb drive. How is this information communicated? How does a cell know it has to build part of a liver and not an eye, while they all have the same DNA? Apoptosis and the role of information exchange.Where does biological Information come from? (Item page) - Guest author: Charley Lineweaver Charley Lineweaver, expert on evolutionary biology, exoplanetology and astrobiology, will expand on the role of information in the evolution of life.
Lifelines (Item page) - Guest author: Morris SwertzWhat is the role of nature versus that of nurture? A key question in modern health research. In Lifesciences, this question is addressed now using Big Data, like the astronomers who acquire huge data volumes to address the same question on the nature of galaxies. In Lifelines, a cohort of 165.000 people is studied over a period of 30 years using hospital data, blood samples and DNA scans.
DVD (33 bit: 233 =9*109, 1 Gb)It' s amazing how fast the digital image revolution went since 1989.30 years ago, Philips lab approached me since they had made a big discovery: it was possible to store many digital images on a CD. They were chasing me for digital images. While NASA had less than a thousand, I had 32.000 galaxy images obtained by scanning photographic plates from the European Southern Observatory - the first large digital image collection.
Human Brain (36 bit: 236 =7*1010, 9 Gb) - Guest author: Katrin Amunts- JulichIn the large EU human brain project, the activities of the human brain are simulated in computers. This is a very difficult mission since the transistors in computers consume 100.000 billion times more energy than the synapsis of neurons. Our brains consist of 1011 neurons, corresponding to 9 Gb of data.Thinking of Karlheinz Meier, coordinator of the Human Brain Project in Heidelberg, Katrin Amunts will author two spreads on the role of information in the human brain.
Neuromorphic computing - Guest author: Katrin AmuntsCurrently, it takes a hundred years of a supercomputer's time to compete with the learning power of only a single day of the human brain. Neuromorphic computing researchers design electronic systems inspired by the human brain, in order to make computers many times faster and more energy efficient.
CT scan (38 bit: 238 =3*1011, 34 Gb) - Guest author: Anders YnnermanNow it is possible to look inside animal and human bodies on touchscreens. Forensic investigations on, for instance, corpses of victims can be done with touch-screen tables. You can look inside, rotate, scroll and zoom animal and human bodies using tens of gigabytes of CT scan data. Prof. Anders Ynnerman explains how he does it.
Terabytes (45 bit: 245 =4.4*1012, 1 Tb) - The largest (astronomical) datasetsDark energy and dark matter: two mysterious constituents of our Universe. How do astronomers get and handle the data from the VLT Survey Telescope on a high mountain top in Chile to shed lights on these 'still too dark' topics. This Telescope surveys the sky every hour at night generating Terabytes of astronomical data.
Gravity as a lens (Item page) - Guest author: Margot BrouwerWhen light rays are bent by the gravity of a heavy object, this object acts as a lens. This effect can be used to map dark matter, which is invisible but constitutes 80% of the matter in our visible Universe. In 1915, Albert Einstein posed that gravity is equivalent to the curvature of the fabric of space and time itself, leading to the lensing effect.
Weak gravitational lensing surveys - Guest author: Margot BrouwerTerabytes of astronomical data are reduced to a few numbers, describing how dark matter behaves and what is its true nature.
Entering the Petabyte regime (53 bit: 253 =1*1015, 1 Pb)How do we technically acquire and deal with Petabytes of data?
Dark Matter maps (Item page)A first dark matter map projected on the night sky. An ultimate encounter between the digital world of modern astronomical observations, and nature: the mysterious dark matter mapped on top of the everyday night stellar sky. A visualization that condenses Terabytes of astronomical data to a simple map.
Metadata for Peta-data (62 bit: 262 =6*1017, 600 Pb)With pointers, one can connect everything in the Information Universe. Pointers are often inserted in Metadata (data about data) - an ultimate tool for dealing with Big Data. It is possible to create unique pointers to hundreds of Petabytes of data, using a string of less than 64 bits. This is what makes pointers so powerful and indispensable in current and future stages of the big data era; not only for astronomical research, but also for companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook.
Downloading the Universe (Item page)The universe can be seen as a spreadsheet, certainly in the way we map it on our computers (in vitro), but also in nature (in vivo). Perceiving the Universe as a spreadsheet links bit to It.
Meta data (Item page)A visualisation of the enormous complexity of data models which trace all pointers between data items. (picture: thrilling still from a full dome animation of a data model)
Future (astronomical) datasets (item page)While current telescopes collect astronomical datasets of Terabytes, future telescopes such as the LSST and the Euclid satellite, instead, will collect Petabytes. These enormous amounts of data need a whole new approach to data management. For the Euclid satellite my Universe as a spreadsheet approach has been adopted.
The Euclid satellite (Item page) - Guest author: Margot BrouwerEuclid is ESA's new space mission to map the Dark Universe. At a distance of 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, this telescope will observe billions of galaxies. Its goal: to shed light on the nature of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, which make up 95% of our Universe. Dr. Margot Brouwer, Dutch scientific communication officer for Euclid, will explain more.
The Information Universe (Item page)The resemblance of the overall structure of the real observed Universe (in vivo) with the simulated universe (in vitro), based on the concurrent cosmological model, gave a lot of credit to the latter. When we zoom out the Universe, we see billions of galaxies forming a web-like structure. Amazingly, astronomers can now compute and simulate these structures with very large supercomputers.
The lost boy (Item page)Information is timeless, and knows no boundaries. It crosses over the in vivo and the in vitro Information Universe. This concept is well illustrated through daily life stories involving time. At the age of five, a boy loses sight of his older brother on a train in India, and eventually gets lost on the streets of Mumbai. Twenty years later, after being adopted by a family in Australia, he is able to find his natural mother (in vivo) through only searching on Google maps (in vitro).
Qbits (50 qbit: 250 =1.1*1015 qbit, 1 Pbit) - Guest author: Lieven VandersypenUsing fundamental particles (quanta, such as electrons) to perform calculations and build computers, is one of the most exciting cross-overs between the in vivo and the in vitro Information Universe. Prof. Lieven Vandersypen, who leads a Quantum Computing group at TU Delft in the Netherlands, will explain how this technology will change the way we compute.
Quantum entanglement (Item page) - Guest author: Lieven VandersypenThe states of two particles can be intimately linked (entangled), no matter how far they are separated. What Einstein famously dismissed as spooky action at a distance, can now be established on demand at TU Delft in the Netherlands. Prof. Vandersypen will explain how his research group, for the first time ever, both create and apply this entanglement in laboratory.
Entanglement (item page) - EVThe Square Kilometre Array (64 bit: 264 =1.3*1018, 1 Eb) - Guest author: TBAThe Square Kilometre Telescope will collect data at the rate of the global internet traffic of 2013, in its endeavour to answer fundamental questions about the origin and evolution of the Universe, and its search for extra-terrestrial life.
Cryptography (128 bit: 2128 =3.4*1038) - Guest author Tanja LangeEncrypted messages should not be decoded by adversaries, be they criminals or hostile countries. Cryptography enables secure communications and is one of the few applications which require 128-bit numbers. A guest author will explain more.
Chapter 3: Deep spaceThe Desert (128-256 bit) Theoretical physics is not progressing much in the last decennia - some call it a crisis. Likely, an observational breakthrough is out of reach: the highest man-made information density on earth is produced by the high energy accelerators at CERN. But these accelerators have to be 1013 -1015 more powerful to reach the fundamental unit of information, which is probably at the same level of the Planck length. Unfortunately, there is no way to reach this unit of information with these instruments. This enormous gap in reaching all the domains in the Information Universe is illustrated in a figure and in a very sobering, but instructive table in the Appendix.
Black holes (128-256 bit?) - Guest author: Manus VisserCan information disappear into a black hole? The Information paradox. Stephen Hawking wondered it and started a field in which space and time are described in terms of information. Dr. Manus Visser, expert on gravity and space-time, will explain more.
Observing a Black Hole: Event Horizon Telescope - Guest author: Heino FalckeThe first image of a black hole. Prof. Heino Falcke, chair of the Event Horizon Telescope Science Council, will explain how information from a world-wide network of telescopes was combined using atomic clocks, to create the first ever image of a black hole. (Picture: first image of a black hole)
Cogwheels: a deeper level - Guest author: Gerard 't HooftNobel laureate 't Hooft explains his views on cogwheels, carrying the fundamental information in the Universe.
Gravitational waves - Guest author: Chris van den Broeck
Links: The Universe as a spreadsheetLinks, joins, references, URLs, blockchain, associations and even entanglement in physics are all different words for the same building block, forming the connections in the Information Universe.
Cosmic Microwave Background - Guest author: Margot BrouwerParticles of light created in the hot and dense state of the Universe after the Big Bang are still flying through the Universe today. Together, these 1077 photons contain the largest amount of information known in the Universe. This information can still be accessed through telescopes, and brings us invaluable information about the dawn of our Universe.
Emergent Gravity - Guest author: Erik VerlindeProf. Erik Verlinde, professor of theoretical physics at the University of Amsterdam, won the Spinoza prize for his new theory explaining gravity. In his theory, all matter, space and time consist of information and are all connected by entanglement. If this theory is correct, the information content of the entire Universe is 2399. This is the highest power described in this book, and actually, in physics.
Chapter 4: It from BitOne big information processing machine - Guest author: Gerard 't Hooft (TBC)t Hooftt Hooft: : there is something happening at a different level of naturethere is something happening at a different level of nature..
On the origin of physical information. - Guest author: Stefano Gottardi
The ear In the ear information is copied a dozen times!
The eye - on the visual perception of data- climate change. Links to - facts and fakes- the system of ScienceThe System of Science
How does this system work? Discussing Hegel's system of science, logic, technology, Nature, life, physics, consciousness.
Artificial IntelligenceThe machine learning and the data-base oriented communities are still living on different planets. I discuss and revisit Tegmark's recent book Life 3.0 by comparing 3 crosscuts through the Information Universe: i) the classical computer centric view ii) the data centric view iii) the artificial intelligence view.
Information densityThe average information density of the universe can be compared to that of written text.
Black Body radiation On the information aspects of the third big physical breakthrough of the 20th century (next to General relativity and quantum mechanics).
EntropyDiscussing Shannon's work and identifying that Information only exists in relation to its environment. Examples will be given.
Cosmic information, cosmogenesis and dark energy by PadmanabhanCosmic information connects the cosmological constant to cosmogenesis
It from BitIs the Universe one big information processing machine?
ConsciousnessVery little is known about the consciousness and I refrain from addressing the consciousness per se. A relevant list of about 5 facts we do know are listed. Any view on the relation between the consciousness and the Information Universe should at least deal with this list.
Somnium - Musician Jacco Gardner performing at DOTLiveplanetarium at Eurosonic 2019 show case music festival- Inspired by Kepler's Somnium - directed by EV
The Information UniverseAn overview.
Facts and fakesHow is all this related to the current facts and fakes issues on the Internet? How do you make sure that what you are reading is accurate and comes from a reliable source?The link between Open Science, FAIR and reliability of data.

Additional information

Powers of Two: The Information Universe - Information as the Building Block of Everything by Edwin A. Valentijn
Used - Very Good
Springer Nature Switzerland AG
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