# Thread: The Movement of Data

1. I suppose this topic could just as easily be posted in the 'Astrology & Cosmology', 'Mathematics' or even the 'Pseudoscience' thread. So you will have to excuse me if it seems out of place here. Aboard the USS-Physics.

I suppose my question is this - sort of this: Does information travel through time?

We all know, or at least assume, that physical properties cannot travel through time but what about data? I only ask becasue, if you think about it, data does not travel through space. Yet it travels none-the-less. Lets say Jack decides to write a letter to Jill who lives in another country. He writes some simple piece of information like "Today is Monday, April the 25th and it is raining where I live and my favorite color is red." Only Jack has incrypted the words in a secret code that only Jill can decipher. Jack mails the letter and it takes one week to reach Jill but within that week Jack dies or is struck over the head and he suffers amnesia and what ever inormation that has been written down in the letter has been deleted. At least from Jacks end.

Now the letter - the stamp, the envelope, the paper, the ink, the egraving of the ink - all consist of physical properties that are, in fact, traveling through space. But the information that is represented by the letter - the actual language/communication/data that can only be deciphered by Jill - The information comes back into existence one week later. (Today is Monday, April the 25th and it is raining where I live and my favorite color is red) Does that constitute as time travel?

How about something more simple: On computer A you write a program Pong and you save it to a disc. After you have ejected the disc you destroy Computer A. From there you wait ten days or two days or just thirty seconds and then you insert the very same disc into computer B. Again, the disc is traveling through space but the actual Pong program is merely data. It is not a tangible thing therefore it cannot and does not travel through space. Did Pong just move through time

Or...what if...You don't destroy computer A - what if Jack didn't suffer amnesia and, in both cases, the information still exist in its point of origin -and - at its point of destination at the "Same" time? Perhaps instead of traveling, information simply expands. But not through space - it expands through time.

2.

3. Point 1: The data are present on the disc all of the time. The data travel through space on the disc. The data are real.
Point 2: We all travel through time via the present. I was there last week. I hope I shall be here next week. There is no distinction between my passage through time and the data passage through time.
Point 3: To suggest that the information only exists upon decryption is to suggest that the tree does not make a sound in the absence of a listener.

4. Originally Posted by Ophiolite
Point 1: The data are present on the disc all of the time. The data travel through space on the disc. The data are real.
Point 2: We all travel through time via the present. I was there last week. I hope I shall be here next week. There is no distinction between my passage through time and the data passage through time.
Point 3: To suggest that the information only exists upon decryption is to suggest that the tree does not make a sound in the absence of a listener.

Point 1: Data is not real. There is no such thing a the number 5.(Not in a physical sense) Yet there is such a thing as 5 apples. There are physical properties that, if arranged in a certain manner or quantity, can represent data. However, data itself is abstract.

Point 2: That one is pretty vague for me. If you could specify it might help me understand a little better.

Point 3: Incrypted data was only one example out many. I would not suggest that all information is encoded.

5. Your memories are no more than some form of highly specialised data, tree rings can be considered data, come to think of it anything can be considered as data, it's at least a record of it's own existence, all physical objects are subject to time - (if there is such a thing as time).

As soon as your write down the number 5 on paper, a computer disk or even a punch tape you have created a physical object which is recognised as a 5, whether it's ink or a bunch of magnetically polarised domains.

6. I suppose there can be conflicting definitions of "information".

Here is one way to see it: Information is really an abstract concept. Information is tied to the interpretation of data by an intelligent mind. Real writing in real ink on a real piece of paper only becomes information, once transmitted to and processed by our mind. Unlike sound, which may still exist in the absence of the listener and is subject to the locally prevalent absolute laws of physics, information only exists within our minds and is not absolute, but determined by our subjective interpretation.

Another way of seeing it is to say that every quantum in this world provides (potential) information. Somebody could come along and interpret the patterns of clouds in the sky as information (and people actually do). That means, even when no one is looking at the clouds right now, that offering of information is still there, arbitrary and meaningless but existent. I would still say, then, that this information only assumes meaning in our minds, and even then is still arbitrary. For example, the information that a writer means to convey with his letter is not identical to the information that a reader would obtain from it, and each reader is likely to obtain different information. No two minds are alike.

Yet another, maybe more physical less philosophical, way of seeing it is that information is real: This particle has this velocity and this position at this time. That's the information you could potentially get from it ("not really", says Heisenberg). How you interpret it is a different matter, and even this "information" is heavily tied to the way we humans describe nature (velocity... what's that?).

Either way: Does information travel through time and space? No more or less than your mind does, and no more or less than physical matter does.

7. Thankyou for the information, since I've remembered it long enough to reply I think I at least have the answer...

8. Originally Posted by Megabrain
Your memories are no more than some form of highly specialised data, tree rings can be considered data, come to think of it anything can be considered as data, it's at least a record of it's own existence, all physical objects are subject to time - (if there is such a thing as time).

As soon as your write down the number 5 on paper, a computer disk or even a punch tape you have created a physical object which is recognised as a 5, whether it's ink or a bunch of magnetically polarised domains.
True - yet again, the key word is "Recongnised". If you think about a chair and then you build the chair than you are taking something that began as an abstract concept and turning it into a physical reality. But you can't build or create the number 5. You can alter the placement of pre-existing objects into such a way that can symbolize the number 5 but in the end it is still just something physical that is "Representing" something abstract.

Language can be seen the same way. A word is a piece of data that does not occupy three dimensional space. Paper, ink, electricity, or even the sound waves that emanate from your vocal cords all consist of a substance or force that can be weighed and measured. But a word has no mass or inertia.

I take a stick and scribe the word "Hello" in the sand yet I scribe it in language that you do not speak. The inscription in the sand may be all too real but only when someone comes along who can understand the language - only than does the actual word "Hello" have any meaning. The inscription might represent the data but the data itself only exist in the abstract of ones mind. That is, one who can read the inscription. But the data is not just lying there on the sand for everyone to see.

9. Originally Posted by M
Either way: Does information travel through time and space? No more or less than your mind does, and no more or less than physical matter does.
Than how does it travel. Or does it travel at all. Does information expand? Or does it not have to expand because...it was already there - already everywhere to begin with?

......I need some asprin.

10. Originally Posted by Kolt
Point 1: Data is not real. There is no such thing a the number 5.(Not in a physical sense)
I think I can agree with you partially. Five is an abstract concept. However data on a disc does not just contain the number five, but associated data that indicates that the five relates to the number of apples, or the dimensions of an object. If we only have numbers on the disc then they have no meaning. They are random noise that can nevere be interpreted or understood because they have no meaning.
Originally Posted by Kolt
Point 2: That one is pretty vague for me. If you could specify it might help me understand a little better.
You mentioned how the information travelled through time form the past, when it was written, to the present, when it was read. But we also travel in time. Although we are always in the present we move from the past (which was then the present), through the present (which is now) to the future (which will be the present once we arrive there).
Originally Posted by Kolt
Point 3: Incrypted data was only one example out many. I would not suggest that all information is encoded.
I'm happy with the idea that all information is in code, if we use a broad definition for code. Code employs symbols. Language is made up of symbols. Language is a kind of code, is it not?

11. Originally Posted by Kolt
Originally Posted by M
Either way: Does information travel through time and space? No more or less than your mind does, and no more or less than physical matter does.
Than how does it travel. Or does it travel at all. Does information expand? Or does it not have to expand because...it was already there - already everywhere to begin with?

......I need some asprin.
To study things objectively you need to give objective definitions of things. There is not much loss of generality if you define data (or rather, information) to be the same as natural numbers: Data cannot sustain existence without physical medium, and it should be comprehendable at least in principle. Some analysis of sensatory organs and brain reveals that all the data any human being can comprehend can be encoded in a single natural number. There cannot be continuum number of humans, so any data that humankind (or species of similar potential) can ever process is a single natural number. Processing information is the same as processing natural numbers. We require that information can be copied, can be deleted, can be transported through space and time with the help of some physical medium, because we want to transfer our knowledge to others, or rather, we call information only those "data" that can be transferred to others in a meaningful way. "Data" such as feeling of an author cannot be transferred exactly so the part that cannot be transferred is not information by definition.

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