Uif nbq jt opu uif ufssjupsz.
Were you able to tell what I was trying to communicate there? Let me express it differently:
Click here for the sentence I've been trying to convey, and its significance. The point is that the same information can be expressed in different ways, and understood (with some work) even if you don't know the the communication system (i.e. code) I'm using.
I started thinking recently about how one would define the concept of information. I don't have a definition yet, but I think one of its crucial properties is that information is independent of the system used to communicate it. The same information can be expressed in a variety of languages, codes, or pictures, and received through lights on a screen, ink arranged on paper, or compressed waves of air. To reach us, information might travel in the form of electrical pulses (as were used in telegraph machines), radio waves, light in fiber-optical channels, or smoke signals. This independence of physical form distinguishes information from other physical quantities. Energy, for example, can come in many forms; but you would react much differently from coming in contact with light energy versus heat energy or kinetic energy.
It takes a certain level of intelligence to conceive of information independently of its form. We humans understand that ink on paper can refer to the same thing as sound waves, whereas to a bacterium these are completely different physical phenomena. It would be interesting to investigate which animals can understand different physical processes as conveying the same message.
One might be tempted to conclude that information exists only in the minds of intelligent beings, with no independent physical meaning. But this is not true: information appears in the laws of physics. The second law of thermodynamics, for example, says that the closed systems become less predictable with time, and more information is therefore required to understand them.
So information is a physical quantity, but exists independently of its many possible forms. This falls far short of a definition, but it may help explain the uniqueness of information among the quantities considered in science.
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