In Buzz Lightyear’s famous words, “To infinity and beyond!”
Scientists believe that the information stored in the universe is as significant as the states of matter: solid, liquid, gas, plasma and should be regarded as one itself. This leads to the question that if everything in the universe is data, then is the universe essentially just a giant computer running a program and we’re the characters? So like the Sims huh…
If we look at it from that angle, then it might be possible to estimate the total amount of information stored in the universe. This is why some scientists have been attempting to come up with a number for that much data. In a recent paper published in AIP Advances from the American Institute of Physics, Melvin M. Vopson, a University of Portsmouth researcher, calculated exactly how much information is in the universe. “We determined that each particle in the observable universe contains 1.509 bits of information and there are ?6 × 10^80 bits of information stored in all the matter particles of the observable universe.”
To understand his logic, we need to accept the principle formulated by the researcher that “information is physical, the information is registered by physical systems, and all physical systems can register information.” While an exact number has not been declared, Vopson’s approach is to come up with an estimate and for that, he devised a formula that calculates the total number of protons in the observable universe known as the Eddington number. From that number, the researcher estimated the number of all elementary particles in the universe and the amount of information about itself that is contained in each particle.
The information theory deployed by Vopson was proposed by mathematician Claude Shannon who is known as the “Father of the Digital Age.” Shannon’s work on information theory dates from 1948 and outlines a method for quantifying information. Vopson’s current study does have its limitations as it doesn’t include antiparticles or neutrinos and makes assumptions about the transfer and storage of information. But still it can serve as an estimating tool to conduct further research and experiments. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll have an exact number for the total information stored in the universe?