Information / Informatika

Cubit, from the series Chromodynamics (2011)

John Wheeler (1911-2008) was a theoretical physicist who for most of his career worked at Princeton University. He collaborated with Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein. His graduate students included legendary figures Hugh Everett and Richard Feynman, amongst others. He personally coined the terms black hole, quantum foam, and wormhole.

In his recently published book, The Hidden Reality, Brian Green, a physics professor at Columbia University, describes a conversation that he had with John Wheeler in 1998: “I asked him what he thought the dominant theme in physics would be in the decades going forward…He put his head down, as if his aging frame had grown weary of supporting such a massive intellect. But now the length of his silence left me wondering, briefly,whether he didn’t want to answer or whether, perhaps, he had forgotten the question. He then slowly looked up and said a single word: Information.”

Wheeler was suggesting that the things we experience continuously, matter and radiation, are secondary manifestations of a more abstract and fundamental entity: information. Wheeler was not suggesting that matter and radiation are illusory, rather that they are material manifestations of something more basic. (Parallels with Plato’s teachings are stunning!)

With Peter Gray, early next year, we will be having a large installation of site-specific art works, at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, in Michigan City, Indiana. Appropriately, the title of the exhibit will be: Informatika.

In many European languages informatika means informatics, which in turn means information science.

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