Physicist as librarian; Henri Poincaré’s intriguing metaphor

Among the new additions to Oxford University Press's admirable series of Very Short Introductions is a revised edition of J.L. Heilbron's VSI to the History of Physics. An interesting read in general, it raises one intriguing idea in particular; the metaphor of physicist as librarian. Libraries and documents feature throughout the book. Heilbron notes that… Continue reading Physicist as librarian; Henri Poincaré’s intriguing metaphor

Can information be conserved, and why would it matter?

The idea that information may be conserved may strike many of us interested in recorded human information information as faintly ridiculous. By 'conserved', we mean that there is a fixed amount of information in the universe, and that, while it may be changed, it can neither be created nor destroyed. This does not seem to… Continue reading Can information be conserved, and why would it matter?

Chemistry and its (information) history

It has often been said that chemistry was, and to an extent may still be, the most information-intensive of the sciences; see, for example, the article by Lyn Robinson and myself on chemical information literacy. This status is now challenged by molecular biology, with its 'Central Dogma' stating that information flows from DNA to RNA… Continue reading Chemistry and its (information) history

Still awaiting the quantum turn

Two years ago a paper by myself and my colleagues Lyn Robinson and Tyabba Siddiqui was published in JASIST, introducing and explaining the idea of an emerging 'quantum information science'. We argued that this could be seen in five respects: use of loose analogies and metaphors between concepts in quantum physics and library/information science; use… Continue reading Still awaiting the quantum turn

Unveiling of nature or social creativity: classification and discovery in astronomy

It has always interested me to see how the development of ideas of classification and categorisation in the information sciences has been intertwined with analogous developments in the natural sciences. This is most obviously the case for botany, where Linnaeus's stipulation that "classification and name-giving will be the foundation of our science" could equally well… Continue reading Unveiling of nature or social creativity: classification and discovery in astronomy

Invented and discovered: mathematics in Popper’s World 3

I have always had an interest in mathematics. This is despite, or perhaps because of, never being very good at the subject at school, and avoiding it to the maximum extent compatible with getting a science degree at university. Not that I have any fondness for what is called 'recreational mathematics', which has always seemed… Continue reading Invented and discovered: mathematics in Popper’s World 3

Albert’s imagination and the significance of information

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination (Albert Einstein) As you no doubt know, this year marks the hundredth anniversary of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, first presented by him in 1915 to the Prussian Academy of Sciences. Even among physics enthusiasts, general relativity has a daunting reputation, largely because of its… Continue reading Albert’s imagination and the significance of information

The Fermi paradox and the information society

The Fermi paradox has long troubled people who wonder if there is life elsewhere in the universe. The paradox relies on two evident facts, both of which have become very much more evident since Enrico Fermi first posed the question which took his name in 1950: “where is everybody?”. The first fact is that it… Continue reading The Fermi paradox and the information society

The Sampo: the constructor in the Kalevala

While on a recent visit to the Information Studies department at Oulu University, I happened to read an interesting article by Jorma Leppänen in the Finnish Airlines magazine. This dealt with the Kalevala, the Finnish epic poem, and my eye was caught by his mention of the Sampo, of which I have to admit I… Continue reading The Sampo: the constructor in the Kalevala

Information about information

One of my long-standing interests, as shown by its frequent appearance on this blog, is the idea of information as a constituent of the physical world. I am, of course, particularly interested in the relations which this may have with the concept of recorded and communicable human information. A valuable new resource for discussing these… Continue reading Information about information