What did Erwin mean? The physics of information from the materials genomics of aperiodic crystals and water to molecular information catalysts and life.
- Author(s): Varn, DP
- Crutchfield, JP
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2015.0067
Erwin Schrödinger famously and presciently ascribed the vehicle transmitting the hereditary information underlying life to an 'aperiodic crystal'. We compare and contrast this, only later discovered to be stored in the linear biomolecule DNA, with the information-bearing, layered quasi-one-dimensional materials investigated by the emerging field of chaotic crystallography. Despite differences in functionality, the same information measures capture structure and novelty in both, suggesting an intimate coherence between the information character of biotic and abiotic matter-a broadly applicable physics of information. We review layered solids and consider three examples of how information- and computation-theoretic techniques are being applied to understand their structure. In particular, (i) we review recent efforts to apply new kinds of information measures to quantify disordered crystals; (ii) we discuss the structure of ice I in information-theoretic terms; and (iii) we recount recent investigations into the structure of tris(bicyclo[2.1.1]hexeno)benzene, showing how an information-theoretic analysis yields additional insight into its structure. We then illustrate a new Second Law of Thermodynamics that describes information processing in active low-dimensional materials, reviewing Maxwell's Demon and a new class of molecular devices that act as information catalysts. Lastly, we conclude by speculating on how these ideas from informational materials science may impact biology.