by Randy Isaac
The term “information” has a connotation of knowledge in the midst of ignorance, an order that arises amid disorder. Information exists everywhere around us, and we spend our lives acquiring, storing, transmitting, and processing it. Yet it is hard for us to define or describe it, in part because the word can be used in so many different ways. In this article, four main categories of usage of the word “information” are explored, paying specific attention to its relationship to intelligence. Thermo- dynamics includes information on all possible physical microstates; capacity of information refers to the maximum number of physical states possible in a system corresponding to pre-established conventions; syntax refers to the particular physical state of that system at a point in time; semantics are the meaning, function, or significance of that physical state. Living systems, in particular, are complex information systems. A look at how living cells process information provides some clues, but not yet a solution, to the mystery of the origins of life.
PSCF 63, no. 4 (2011): 219–30