Modern Physics: the Universe is a Duality of Processes

©Fernando Caracena 15 Oct 2012

"Tomorrow, we will have learned to understand and express all of physics in the language of information."

John Archibald Wheeler

Energy and Information

Today, a number of prominent physicists see the universe as made of two basic ingredients: information and energy, to which everything owes its existence. As John A. Wheeler said,

It from bit symbolises the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom - at a very deep bottom, in most instances - an immaterial source and explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that things physical are information-theoretic in origin.”

Energy and information are the substance and form of the universe. Energy is neither created nor destroyed, as a consequence of which it is known as a conserved quantity. Recently, information has been suggested to be also a conserved quantity1; however, some of it may become less perceptible with time, becoming microscopically hidden. In fact, this is an alternative way to state the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

A shape shifter, energy streams through the universe, morphing from one form to another without any loss. According to Einstein's Relativity theory, matter is a form of concentrated energy.  In contrast, the arrangement of perceptible information degrades with time—its decrease is linked inversely to the increase in time. The loss of the perceptible order of information establishes the direction of time, or the arrow of time. At the time of the birth of the universe, The Big Bang, its energy was arranged in the highest informationally ordered state, but there did not exist the forms of matter that we observe today. Since that time, information has


1See Black Hole War by Susskind

become progressively more microscopically hidden as macroscopic organized forms of matter have emerged through dissipative processes (Prigogene). The stream of information and energy both act within processes to manifest the various forms that appear in nature including living organisms. Information that becomes microscopically dispersed is called entropy. In every morphing of energy, entropy either remains the same or increases. As the entropy of a system increases its associated energy becomes progressively less available to produce any large sized transformations of form.

Dynamic patterns, processes and objects

We recognize a rock or a piece of wood as objects, but not a cloud in the sky nor a rainbow. A cloud is a cluster of small water drops and/or ice crystals that hang in the sky as a visible mass. The inside of a cloud looks just like fog, which through a microscope is seen to be composed of individual cloud droplets that are continuously transforming by coalescing, evaporating, or growing by condensation. Some water drops may be turning into ice crystals; or ice crystals may be melting. All that may be happening in the entity we call a cloud. A cloud, therefore, is a process rendered visible, but it is not an object such  as an apple. A rainbow is even less of an object than a cloud. It is produced by the refraction of sun light shining on drops of rain. Its apparent position in space is determined by the angles formed between the observer's eye, the rain drops and the direction of the sun's rays. The place that the rainbow exists is in the eye of the beholder, as an image on his retina; but it is really not out there. Instead, a rainbow is a pure process that has the appearance of a thing within our eyes.

In examining the nature of physical reality, modern physics has ended by also destroying the notion of objective existence on the subatomic level, the elementary particles; and since these microscopic entities by composition result in the world of objects that we are familiar with, even our world of objects is but an appearance of reality. Every physical object that we see is a foam composed of non-objective, elementary components, which themselves are not objects, but rather processes.

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