Physicist John A Wheeler (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Archibald_Wheeler) suggested the concept of "law without law" and "it from bit" which suggested that the universe did not have any laws at its initial state and they emerged being created by bits of information. He suggested that the universe was fundamentally discrete and it was made by information or even quantum information (it from bit and it from qubit).

But, is it there any other well known/famoua version of these concepts where the "bits" and the "its" are not fundamentally discrete but continuous? Any version that remplaces the digital view of wheeler by an analog view?

Here (http://calculemus.org/CA/sw-infor/it-from-bit.html) it is suggested that physicist Freeman Dyson suggested that the universe is made of analogical informational processes, but I could not find anything outside this page that indicated clearly that Dyson thought the universe was this way (for example in his wikipedia page this is not even mentioned)

So do you know of anything that could help? Any theory/hypothesis?

  • What about some small physical units that are in motion (primarily spinning, but bobbing and weaving and such as they do).... perpetually spinning, only the relative frequency of spin changing, they always spin. imagine 3 million rpm minus 1, or plu 1 would be like "relative clockwise" and "relative counterclockwise" among them, even though all are going clockwise. Producing opporunity for progressive variation within a continuous "flow" of interacting. Commented Mar 3 at 23:05

1 Answer 1


Wheeler categorised his working life into three periods: "Everything is Particles", "Everything is Fields", and "Everything is Information". (from his autobiography 'Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam')

"It from bit symbolises the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom — at a very deep bottom, in most instances — an immaterial source and explanation; that what we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and this is a participatory universe." From 'Information, Physics, Quantum: The Search for Links'

So, asking for a continuous equivalent is missing the point. The insight of the phrase 'it from bit' is fundamentally information-theoretic, in the quantum Shannon-entropy sense of information.

In the context of Quantum Field Theory you could say the fundamental 'substances' are continuous, but interactions are inherently piecemeal, quantised events. I guess you could describe events in higher dimensional spaces in say string theory as more continuous, like a spreading decision tree with all the options,not just yes & no. They cannot be causally connected to our current present though, so it's arguable how real Many World's can be.

The holgraphic principle points to the idea of a maximum state of entropy, defined by the Planck length and Planck time. This seems to be our most fundamental insight into what things are made of at the smallest scale. That it points toward information seems to support quantum ideas even in string theory.

  • thank you for your answer... So, you mentioned Shannon entropy. You seemed to suggest that Wheeler's "it from bit" was based on Shannon's entropy when applied to physics, is that right? If so, could Wheeler's "it from bit" be compatible with other models/theories/equations (appart from Shannon's entropy)? I mean, is it there any other theory/model/equation in physics that is conceptually the same as Wheeler's "it from bit"? @CriglCragl
    – physistack
    Commented May 31, 2019 at 18:20
  • @physistack So, I simply mean entropy considered as related to the information of systems. The conventional, classical, property-dualism is that there is 1 substance, energy, and information is secondary. Wheeler turns that on it's head, saying information is more fundamental, and energy a secondary characteristic. It's a doctrine, a paradigm, I think Wheeler himself would have admitted it as 'more of a suspicion' than anything. The holographic principle and (unproved but seems to solve blackhole info paradox) idea of conservation of information seem to expand info as fundamental. Why?
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 17:00
  • It seems it is now proven en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/No-hiding_theorem
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 17:11
  • @physistack So, i was thinking more. Consider logic gates: doped semiconductor junctions, acting on currents of electrons. That's all fields, in the QFT sense. So it seems viable to me to frame information in analog terms, in principle. What we glean from entropy in thermodynamics, is that even when the full dynamics, all the possible states, are not known we can do precise work on entropy /change/. Pointing from behaviour to states, a specifically quantum thing, eg spin up/down. These aren't analog, hence quantum leaps.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 1:36
  • @physistack These derive from changes so small, the smallest possible probe, a massless photon, could not 'look' at the state without disturbing the system - this generates and defines the size of the uncertainty principle. So even if the system is analog below the scale of photon energy/wavelength, that cannot be determined, information about that cannot even in principle propagate out from the system. So, the fundamental laws, system of particles, create a 'granularity' to the universe, that does make information fundamentally not analog - up/down, signal/no-signal
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 1:43

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