According to a new estimate by scientists, the visible Universe may contain approximately 6×1080 bits of data. That’s 600 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion bits of information, or, more simply, 600 quinquavigintillion bits. This number corresponds to the approximate number of elementary particles in space.
The data obtained may be important for the hypothesis that the Universe is actually a giant computer simulation. But at the heart of this staggering number lies an even stranger hypothesis.
60 years ago, the German-American physicist Rolf Landauer proposed a type of equivalence of information and energy. Erasing a digital bit in a computer produces a small amount of heat, which is a form of energy. Because of Albert Einstein’s famous equation E = mc2, which implies that energy and matter are different forms of each other, Melvin Vopson, a physicist at the University of Portsmouth in England, suggests that there may be a connection between information, energy and mass.
“Using the principle of equivalence of mass, energy and information, I suggested that information might be the dominant form of matter in the Universe. Information can even explain the existence of dark matter — a mysterious substance that makes up the vast majority of matter in space,” Melvin Vopson said.
Vopson intended to determine the amount of information in a single subatomic particle, such as a proton or neutron. According to him, such essences can be fully described by three main characteristics: their mass, charge and spin.
“These properties make elementary particles distinguishable from each other, and they can be considered as “information,” he added.
What is a “bit of information”?
The information has a specific definition. For the first time this term was proposed by the American mathematician and engineer Claude Shannon in a groundbreaking article in 1948 entitled “Mathematical theory of Communication”. In it, considering the maximum efficiency of information transmission, the author introduced the concept of a bit. The bit can have a value of 0 or 1. It is used to measure units of information, just as distance is measured in meters and temperature is measured in degrees.
Using Shannon’s equations, Vopson calculated that a proton or neutron must contain the equivalent of 1,509 bits of encoded information. Then he obtained an estimate of the total number of particles in the observable Universe — about 1080, which was consistent with previous estimates for determining the total information content of the cosmos.
Mistake in calculations
According to Vopson, even though the resulting number is huge, it is still not large enough to account for dark matter in the Universe. In his earlier work, he calculated that this would require approximately 1,093 bits of information. This number was 10 trillion times larger than the one he had calculated earlier.
“The number I have calculated is less than expected. Perhaps important things were not taken into account in the calculations, which focused on particles such as protons and neutrons, but ignored essences such as electrons, neutrinos and quarks,” commented Vopson.
Although such calculations may not have direct application, they may be useful for those who believe that the observable Гniverse is actually a giant computer simulation. Such a hypothesis is really exciting. However, at this stage of human evolution, it is impossible to know if this is true.
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