February 1, 2000
Will it be possible in the twenty-first century to teleport objects from one place to another? Will superfast quantum computers usher in an even more powerful second computer revolution? Is our universe only one of an infinite number of universes?
What do all of these questions have to do with the radical new theory that “everything is information”? In the groundbreaking The Bit and the Pendulum, acclaimed science writer Tom Siegfried introduces readers to the frontiers of the radical new physics of information, and to the host of amazing discoveries it is inspiring – from the development of a stunning new breed of quantum computers, to methods for writing super secure codes, to revealing fascinating insights into the elaborate computer-like workings of the cell and resolving long-standing mysteries about the inner workings of black holes and how the universe evolved.
The revolutionary insight central to all of this new science is that the most fundamental constituents of matter are not atoms, or even the subatomic particles, but “bits,” the fundamental units of information. As Siegfried writes: “scientists are exploring a new path toward understanding life, physics, and existence. The path leads through all of nature, from the interior of cells to inside black holes. Always the signs are the same: the world is made of information.”
Siegfried has interviewed the leading researchers, and he provides wonderfully lucid and entertaining explanations of the remarkable range of work they are doing. We are introduced to the latest theories in quantum physics and how they are being applied by quantum cryptographers to create secret codes that are absolutely unbreakable. We learn how the mind-boggling physics of “reversible logic” can recapture lost information. We are introduced to Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann and his provocative new idea of a “schema” to encode the way that nature works. We meet maverick mathematician Leonard Adleman and learn about his ingenious method of harnessing the information power of the genetic code to create DNA computers.
Entering the mind-bending domain of forefront research and cosmology, we are introduced to physicist John Wheeler, the namer of black holes, and his ideas about how black holes “swallow” information. We also learn about the seemingly bizarre “many worlds” theory that our universe is only one of an infinite number of universes, and we are introduced to the controversy over M Theory, which some scientists argue is the long-sought “Theory of Everything.”
The Bit and the Pendulum offers an engaging, fast-paced introduction to a fundamentally new way of seeing the world and an amazing glimpse into many of the hottest areas of research and science today.
Tom Siegfried is the science editor of the Dallas Morning News. He is the recipient of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Westinghouse Award for science journalism.