Foundations of Physics Group, School of Physics, Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences (IPM)

• Foundations of Physics and Information Theory

I - Foundations of Physics and its Application in Quantum Information Theory

The newly formed field of quantum information theory is devoted to using the Principles and laws of quantum mechanics to aid in the acquisition, transmission, and processing of information. In particular, it seeks to harness the peculiarly quantum phenomena of entanglement, superposition, and non-locality to perform all sorts of novel tasks, such as enabling computations that operate exponentially faster or more efficient than their classical counterparts (via quantum computers) and provide unconditionally secure cryptographic systems for the transfer of secret messages over public channels (via quantum key distribution). Quantum information theory has opened up a whole new range of philosophical and foundational questions. The first cluster of questions concerns the nature of quantum information. For example, is quantum information just classical information stored in a quantum system, or is it a new distinctive type of information? A second cluster of important philosophical questions concerns about how it is that quantum information protocols are able to achieve more than their classical counterparts. For example, how is that quantum computers are able to compute exponentially faster than their classical computers? A third important cluster of philosophical questions concerns what new insights recent work in quantum information theory might provide for the foundations of quantum mechanics. Some authors have argued that an information-theoretic approach may provide a new axiomatic basis for quantum mechanics and provide deeper insights into what makes quantum mechanics different from classical mechanics. They believe that quantum information has changed the way we think about quantum physics.

II- Physics, consciousness and information

Recent revolutionary developments in science recent decades shows that known fundamental notions such as matter and energy are not sufficient for conceiving the real nature of the world. Regarding the notion of information, one may hope to grasp odd aspects of natural phenomena which are beyond the na´ve description of materialism, mechanism and pure determinism. The main questions, here, for us are those including the subjective or objective character of information, its primary role in building the real stuff of the world and failures of pragmatic interpretations of information in elucidating the concept of it. Also, the role of information in expounding the relationship between mind and matter is of great interest.

III- Physics, information and philosophy

Information in common sense, is a subjective concept placed between data and knowledge. But some experts in foundations of natural sciences believe that it may possess a basic role in nature (as third entity beside matter and energy). Especially, when it comes to the interpretation of non-classical phenomena and fundamental unresolved problems in physics and biology, we find several insights based on information that aim to explain how this concept, being subjective or objective, could play a fundamental role in these fields. For instance, in quantum theory the interpretation of the wave function, the measurement problem, entanglement of quantum systems, etc., have been interpreted using the concept of information. In thermodynamics, entropy has some information-based explanations. Among these explanations, one can see different philosophical attitudes towards information, its entity and function. These could be classified as; syntactic, semantic and pragmatic information. The last one has had the most impression on scientist's works. Thus, it is important to answer some questions like: "whether every philosophical attitude on information could help in finding a clearer explanation of natural phenomena or not", "could information be a physical and fundamental entity beside matter and energy?", "what information really is?" These and many other questions are subjected to the area of physics, information and philosophy.

These are real physical problems and should not be ignored by claiming that they are philosophical problems. Fortunately some distinguished physicists and philosophers (well-versed in physics) of our time have been dealing with these problems. Thus, the establishment of “foundational physics group” in this institute, which is supposed to deal with foundational fields of knowledge, seems justified. This is especially true as most of the important theories of physics are presently facing some fundamental problems.