Slaying Dragons #16 – Information Theory

We are told we live in an information society.
John Watkinson wonders how we recognize information when we see it.

Dig deep enough, and everything is digital. Our DNA uses quaternary coding in discrete symbols. Atoms consist of discrete particles. Quantum mechanics teaches us about discrete packets of energy. Electrons are discrete and so on.

The meaning of words changes with time, words like “standard” and ”gay” spring to mind. The word “analog” originally meant one thing representing another, a defensible usage, but it was corrupted to mean infinitely variable, a meaning that is indefensible.

Things only appear to be infinitely variable to us because we are so large compared to the underlying discrete processes. What we experience is a macroscopic averaging or filtering. We don’t feel the individual collisions with air molecules that keep our airliner aloft. The wing is using molecular oversampling that turns numerous quanta of momentum into a lift force that is substantially constant.

Equally our ears and microphones don’t respond to the ceaseless discrete molecular collisions. Instead they respond to trends or averages; the macroscopic movement of air we call sound.

An infinitely variable microphone would produce no output at all in the presence of silence, yet in the real world …

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