“No phenomenon is a real phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon.” – John Archibald Wheeler
Daily Nugget of Gold 1548
It from Bit
A famous physicist, John Archibald Wheeler, coined the term “Black Hole” to represent an area of space so dense and with such a strong gravitational field that not even light can escape it once the light reaches its “event horizon”. Like many scientists, he was devoted. Mr. Wheeler only recently passed away in 2008, but having been born in 1911, he at one time worked in the same era as Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, and in fact, worked with Bohr at one time.
We’re going to put what he said about the concept of “It from Bit” in his own words, here: “It from bit. Otherwise put, every “it” — every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself — derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely — even if in some contexts indirectly — from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, “bits”. It from bit symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom — a very deep bottom, in most instances — an immaterial source and explanation; that which 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 that this is a participatory universe.”
Yeah, this is pretty heady, scientific stuff, but we made it easy to get to the meat of what he was saying. In the first highlighted portion of the quote, he was saying that matter, at some very deep level, was actually derived from something not made out of physical objects at all, probably. The second highlighted part alludes to matter coming into existence from information– information which we have a role in creating through our participation(!) as conscious entities.
In other words, “stuff” we see comes from “thoughts” we think, putting it bluntly. Did everyone in the scientific community agree with Wheeler? No, but as some of the old scientists who disagreed with him died off, what he said is gaining greater acceptance. (We recently ran a quote about how that’s usually the method that groundbreaking theories get accepted into the mainstream of science.)
Have you begun to piece together how revolutionary the implications of what he said might be for 3D printers? Stick around, in one more session, we’ll wrap this up.
Question of the Day to Ask Ourselves
“If I must participate in creating what I see, what things do I NOT wish to create for myself?”
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