If information carries mass, could it be the dark matter physicists are craving?
The existence of dark energy and dark matter was inferred in order to correctly predict the expansion of the universe and the rotational velocity of galaxies. In this view, dark energy could be the source of the centrifugal force expanding the universe (it is what accounts for the Hubble constant in the leading theories), while dark matter could be the centripetal force (an additional gravity source) necessary to stabilize galaxies and clusters of galaxies, since there isn’t enough ordinary mass to keep them together. Among other hypotheses, dark energy and dark matter are believed to be related to the vacuum fluctuations, and huge efforts have been devoted to detecting it. The fact that no evidence has yet been found calls for a change of perspective that could be due to information theory.
How could we measure the mass of information?
Dr. Melvin Vopson, of the University of Portsmouth, has a hypothesis he calls the mass-energy-information equivalence. It extends the already existing information-energy equivalence by proposing information has mass. Initial works on Shannon’s classical information theory, its applications to quantum mechanics by Dr. Wheeler, and Landauer’s principle predicting that erasing one bit of information would release a tiny amount of heat, connect information to energy. Therefore, through Einstein’s equivalence between mass and energy, information – once created – has mass. The figure below depicts the extended equivalence principle.
Fig 1. Mass-energy-information equivalence principle. Image taken from AIP Advances.
In order to find the mass of digital information, one would start with an empty data storage device, measuring its total mass with a highly sensitive device. Once the information is recorded in the device, its mass is measured again. The next step is to erase one file and measure again. The limiting step is the fact that such an ultra-sensitive device doesn’t exist yet. In his paper published in the journal AIP Advances, Vopson proposes that this device could be in the form of an interferometer similar to LIGO, or a weighing machine like a Kibble balance. In the same paper, Vopson describes the mathematical basis for the mechanism and physics by which information acquires mass, and formulates this powerful principle, proposing a possible experiment to test it.
In regard to dark matter, Vopson says that his estimate of the ‘information bit content’ of the universe is very close to the number of bits of information that the visible universe would contain to make up all the missing dark matter, as estimated by M.P. Gough and published in 2008,.
This idea is synchronistic with the recent discovery that sound carries mass, i.e., phonons are massive.
Vopson is applying for a grant in order to design and build the measurement device and perform the experiments. We are so looking forward to his results!
Both dark matter and dark energy have been inferred as a consequence of neglecting spin in the structure of space-time. In the frame of the Generalized Holographic approach, spin is the natural source of centrifugal and centripetal force that emerges from the gradient density across scales, just as a hurricane emerges due to pressure and temperature gradients. The vacuum energy of empty space – the classical or cosmological vacuum – has been estimated to be 10−9 joules per cubic meter. However, vacuum energy density at quantum scale is 10113 joules per cubic meter. Such a discrepancy of 122 orders of magnitude difference in vacuum densities between micro and cosmological scales is known as the vacuum catastrophe. This extremely large density gradient in the Planck field originates spin at all scales.
Additionally, the holographic model explains mass as an emergent property of an information transfer potential between the information-energy stored in a confined volume and the information-energy in the surface or boundary of that volume, with respect to the size or volume of a bit of information. Each bit of information-energy voxelating the surface and volume is spinning at an extremely fast speed. Space is composed of these voxels, named Planck Spherical Units (PSU), which are a quanta of action. The expressed or unfolded portion of the whole information is what we call mass. For more details on how the holographic approach explains dark mass and dark energy, please see our RSF article on the Vacuum Catastrophe.