Showing posts from April, 2007

Understanding the universe: priceless. For anything else: there is information theory

I recently read two books: Information: The New Language of Science (2003) by Hans Christian Von Baeyer and Decoding the Universe: How the New Science of Information Is Explaining Everything in the Cosmos, from Our Brains to Black Holes (2006), by Charles Seife. Both belong to that very readable, scientifically well-researched form of literature so popular in the English-speaking world. You know you are part of the semi-mythical EP ("educated public") if you enjoy reading such books. Both books talk about information in terms of Shannon's mathematical theory of communication, i.e., not in terms of something out there (like patterns in the environment, for example) and not in terms of something inside here (like meaningful things in one's head, for exampel). Both books are based on the same idea: information is everything. Both leave unclear whether this means that scientifically , everything can be explained in terms of information (theory); or whether, co

Italian Biotech Law Conference 2007

This year the topic of the Italian Biotech Law Conference 2007 was "ownership of bioinformation", a very thorny issue. The conference turned out to be very interesting. It was, unfortunately, too short and perhaps badly timed, as most people at IFOM seemed to be thinking more about the Easter break than research. Having said this, I probably learnt much more than I contributed, since all the papers were very insightful. In my own contribution, I argued that, ultimately, genes are literally information (although a procedural kind of it) and that this interpretation allows one to unify, in a single approach to informational realism, both physics and biology. Basically, it makes a lot of sense to adopt a level of abstraction at which all processes, properties and entities, no matter whether just physical or also biological, are ultimately made of information. The previous thesis can be summarised through a slogan: in biology, the medium is the message. Linguistically, this me