For a physicist, all the world's information. The Universe and its workings are the ebb and flow of information. We are all transient patterns of information, passing on the recipe for our basic forms to future generations using a four-letter digital code called DNA. In this engaging and mind-stretching account, Vlatko Vedral considers some of the deepest questions about the Universe and considers the implications of interpreting it in terms of information. He explains the nature of information, the idea of entropy, and the roots of this thinking in thermodynamics. He describes the bizarre effects of quantum behaviour – effects such as 'entanglement', which Einstein called 'spooky action at a distance' and explores cutting edge work on the harnessing quantum effects in hyperfast quantum computers, and how recent evidence suggests that the weirdness of the quantum world, once thought limited to the tiniest scales, may reach into the macro world.
Vedral finishes by considering the answer to the ultimate question: where did all of the information in the Universe come from? The answers he considers are exhilarating, drawing upon the work of distinguished physicist John Wheeler. The ideas challenge our concept of the nature of particles, of time, of determinism, and of reality itself.
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"By turns irreverent, erudite and funny, Decoding Reality is – by the standard of books that require their readers to know what a logarithm is – a ripping good read [...] Not since David Deutsch's magestierial The Fabric of Reality has a physicist given us such a wide-ranging and intriguing picture of how quantum mechanics constructs the world."
– Seth Lloyd, New Scientist
"Well written and engaging, the book provides a constant flow of new ideas."
"The author evinces great enthusiasm and curiosity throughout."
– Steven Poole, The Guardian
"Excellent, thought-provoking book."
– BBC Focus Magazine, Marcus Chown
"An engaging, non-technical exploration of what the new theory of quantum information and computation tells us about life, the universe, and everything."
– David Deutsch, author of The Fabric of Reality
"Let Vedral guide you skilfully through the wonderland of modern physics – where nothing is as it seems. This is the finest treatment I have read of the weird interplay of quantum reality, information and probability."
– Paul Davies, author of The Eerie Silence and The Goldilocks Enigma
1. Creation Ex Nihilo: something from nothing
2. Information for all seasons
3. Back to basics: bits and pieces
4. Digital romance: life is a four-letter word
5. Murphy's Law: I knew this would happen to me
6. Place your bets: in it to win it
7. Social informatics: get connected or die tryin'
8. Quantum schmuntum: lights, camera, action!
9. Surfing the waves: hyper-fast computers
10. Children of the aimless chance: randomness versus determinism
11. Sand reckoning: whose information is it, anyway?
12. Destruction ab toto: the darkness of reality
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Vlatko Vedral is Professor of Quantum Information Science at the University of Oxford. He has written widely about the field and has been a frequent guest on radio and television.