Dr. Melvin Vopson, a physicist with the School of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Portsmouth, has already published research suggesting that information has physical mass and that all elementary particles store information about themselves. Now, the researcher has designed an experiment — which if proved correct — means he will have discovered that information is the fifth form of matter, alongside solid, liquid, gas and plasma.
Since IBM’s development of the first magnetic hard disk drive in 1956, digital information storage technologies have radically transformed our modern society.
In binary code, digital information is stored as logical 1s and 0s, known as bits. Bits of information can be stored in any material capable of displaying two distinctive and switchable physical states (magnetic, electric, optical, and resistive) by allocating a logical 0 or 1 to each physical state.
Digital information became so entrenched in all aspects of our society that the recent growth in information production appears to be unstoppable.
Each day on Earth we generate 500*106 tweets, 294*109 emails, 4*106 gigabytes of Facebook data, 65*109 WhatsApp messages, and 720,000 hours of new content added daily on YouTube.
In 2018, the total amount of data created, captured, copied, and consumed in the world was 33 zettabytes (ZB) or the equivalent of 264*1021 bits, where 1 ZB is 8*1021 bits. This grew to 59 ZB in 2020 and is predicted to reach a 175 ZB by 2025.
In 2019 and 2021, Dr. Vopson proposed two important conjectures:
(a) the mass-energy-information equivalence principle, stating that information transcends into mass or energy depending on its physical state;
and (b) the existence of an intrinsic information underpinning the fundamental characteristics of elementary particles in the Universe, implying that stable, non-zero rest mass elementary particles store a fixed and quantifiable value of information about themselves.
These so-called information conjectures also imply that the information is a form of matter, called the fifth state of matter or the fifth element.
In his new paper, published in the journal AIP Advances, Dr. Vopson proposes an experimental protocol that allows for empirical verification of these conjectures by confirming the predicted information content of elementary particles.
“If we assume that information is physical and has mass, and that elementary particles have a DNA of information about themselves, how can we prove it?” he said.
“My latest paper is about putting these theories to the test so they can be taken seriously by the scientific community.”
Dr. Vopson’s experiment proposes how to detect and measure the information in an elementary particle by using particle-antiparticle collision.
“The information in an electron is 22 million times smaller than the mass of it, but we can measure the information content by erasing it,” he explained.
“We know that when you collide a particle of matter with a particle of antimatter, they annihilate each other. And the information from the particle has to go somewhere when it’s annihilated.”
The annihilation process converts all the remaining mass of the particles into energy, typically gamma photons. Any particles containing information are converted into low-energy infrared photons.
In his paper, Dr. Vopson predicts the exact energy of the infrared photons resulting from erasing the information.
He believes his work could demonstrate how information is a key component of everything in the universe and a new field of physics research could emerge.
“This would be a eureka moment because it would change physics as we know it and expand our understanding of the Universe,” Dr. Vopson said.
“But it wouldn’t conflict with any of the existing laws of physics.”
“It doesn’t contradict quantum mechanics, electrodynamics, thermodynamics or classical mechanics,” he added.
“All it does is complement physics with something new and incredibly exciting.”
Melvin M. Vopson. 2022. Experimental protocol for testing the mass-energy-information equivalence principle featured. AIP Advances 12 (3): 035311; doi: 10.1063/5.0087175
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