There is no shortage of debate over the nature of dark matter, a mysterious substance that many believe makes up much of the total mass of the universe, despite never having observed it directly. Now some think that Landauer’s principle, which dictates the physical nature of information, raises a startling possibility: that dark matter could be information itself, writes Melvin Vopson.
One of the greatest curiosities of modern physics is the nature of the mysterious substance known as “dark matter”. It is widely accepted that the composition of the Universe is about 5% ordinary (baryonic) matter consisting of baryons – a general name for subatomic particles such as protons, neutrons and electrons, 27% dark matter and 68% of the universe is made of something even more confusing called “dark energy”. Unlike normal matter, dark matter does not interact with the electromagnetic force. This means that it does not absorb, reflect or emit light, making it extremely difficult to spot.
Infinity: the question that cosmology cannot answer
Dark matter was first suggested in the 1920s to explain observed anomalies in stellar velocities, and later in the 1930s when Fritz Zwicky, a Swiss astronomer, noted a discrepancy between the mass of visible matter and the calculated mass of a galaxy cluster as well as a gap between the motion of a galaxy cluster was far too fast to be maintained by the gravitational pull of visible matter alone. The existence of this gravitational anomaly, Zwicky called dunkle Materie – “dark matter”. However, the strongest scientific argument for the existence of dark matter came in the 1970s with the work of American astronomer Vera Rubin, who showed a consistent effect of spiral galaxies spinning too fast for amount of visible material present. Both Rubin and Zwicky had observed something that added to the force of gravity impacting these galaxies.
The main observational evidence in the 1970s came from research into the rotation curves of galaxies. The study of the rotation curves of galaxies allows the study of the kinematics of galaxies, and provides a means of estimating their masses. The orbital speed of a spinning disc of gas and stars is expected to obey Kepler’s second law, so rotational speeds should decrease with distance from the center. Experimental observations indicate that the rotation curves of galaxies remain flat as the distance from the center increases. Since there is more gravitational pull than expected if only observed baryonic light/matter from a galaxy were present, the flat rotational velocity curves are a strong indicator that there is something else, called black matter.
Predicted and observed galaxy rotation curve of a spiral galaxy. Dark matter is needed to explain the “flat” rotational velocity curve, even for stars at very large distances from the galactic center. Credit: www.resonance.is
Although the existence of dark matter is generally accepted, a large community of scientists is working on alternative explanations that do not require the existence of dark matter at all. To this end, there are various theoretical approaches, usually involving modifications of existing established theories such as modified Newtonian dynamics, modified general relativity, entropic gravity and tensor-vector-scalar gravity, to name a few- one.
Some have proposed that “information” is the 5th state of matter along with solid, liquid, gas and plasma and possibly the dominant form of matter in the universe
Most physicists today attempt to identify the nature of dark matter through various means, but the consensus is that dark matter is composed primarily of an as yet undiscovered subatomic particle. Unfortunately, all efforts to isolate or detect dark matter have so far failed.
Could the explanation of the mystery of “dark matter” come from a completely new approach, based on the physics of information?
The research field of physics of information has its origins in the principle that information is physical, information is stored by physical systems, and all physical systems can store information. The interaction between physics and information has been a subject of scientific debate since the late 1920s. Leo Szilard analyzed the relationship between information and physical processes, demonstrating that information about a system dictates its ways of working. possible evolution and offering an elegant solution to Maxwell’s famous demon paradox. The information content of the universe has been addressed in several studies by the likes of Stephen Hawking, Jacob David Bekenstein and Seth Lloyd dating back to the late 1970s and most recently in a 2021 study.
The strongest scientific argument for the existence of dark matter came in the 1970s with the work of American astronomer Vera Rubin, who showed a consistent effect of spiral galaxies spinning too fast for the amount of visible matter present.
With the emergence of digital computers, digital technologies and digital data storage, the subject of information physics entered a new era, beginning with the pioneering work on the physics of information by Brillouin in 1953 and de Landauer in 1961. They both demonstrated that information is not just a mathematical tool. build, but it’s physical. Following its experimental confirmation, Landauer’s principle, which dictates the physical nature of information, is now widely accepted as valid by the scientific community.
In 2019, an extension of Landauer’s principle, called the mass-energy-information (MEI) equivalence principle, was proposed. The MEI equivalence principle states that, if information is equivalent to energy, according to Landauer, and if energy is equivalent to mass, according to Einstein’s special relativity, then the triad of mass, of energy and information must also be equivalent. According to the MEI equivalence principle, a bit of information must have a small mass when the information is stored in equilibrium. The bit of information therefore has the characteristics of a scalar boson particle with no charge, no spin, with no properties other than mass/energy. Such an information particle would display its presence only via gravitational interactions, but it would be impossible to detect because it would not interact with electromagnetic radiation. These are in fact the characteristics of the elusive “dark matter” whose presence is only inferred from gravitational interactions, but which has never been observed or detected.
This has led some to propose the radical idea that information could be the missing dark matter in the universe, and also to posit that “information” is the 5e state of matter along solid, liquid, gas and plasma and possibly the dominant form of matter in the universe.
Artistic representation of a digital blueprint of the Universe. Free licensed image from Pixabay.com
Cosmology in crisis
Assuming a constant average temperature T = 2.73K of the universe (Cosmic Microwave Background temperature) and disregarding where this mass of information is located in spacetime, a rough estimate indicates that ‘a total number of ~ 52 ´ 1093 bits of information in the visible universe would be enough to account for all the missing dark matter. This raises a startling possibility: that dark matter could be information itself.
Although the proposed theory has speculative aspects, it has the merit of being verifiable in a laboratory environment. In fact, a new experiment was already proposed in March 2022 and the world’s first Institute for Information Physics (IPI) was recently established to support these studies and the experimental efforts of the University of Portsmouth, via the collection of funds and collaborative research. The hope is that the IPI initiative and the field of information physics research will soon yield important results that will advance our understanding of the universe and its governing laws.
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