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January 23, 2018

CATEGORY: Is Reality Digital or Analog? Essay Contest (2010-2011) [back]
TOPIC: On Analog Measurements and The Digital Nature of Things by Joachim J. Wlodarz [refresh]
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Author Joachim J. Wlodarz wrote on Feb. 15, 2011 @ 16:23 GMT
Essay Abstract

In this essay it is argued that the properties attributed to physical objects are inherently digital quantities, while their experimentally estimated values are rather analog quantities, as acquired indirectly in a measurement process, regardless if it is classical or quantum.

Author Bio

The Author got his PhD in 1991 from the University of Silesia, Poland. He is appointed since 2003 as Senior Lecturer at the Department of Theoretical Chemistry the same Alma Mater, and works also closely with the Computer Science Group at the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry.

Download Essay PDF File

Constantinos Ragazas wrote on Feb. 17, 2011 @ 02:00 GMT
Hello Joachim,

I find your claim that measurement is analog / continuous rather puzzling. Perhaps a closer reading of your essay may clarify this for me. But let me just provisionally point out that at least with measurements of energy (as in blackbody radiation) measurement involves an equilibrium which results in discrete absorption of energy (quanta). I am not sure how this is analog, in your view. In my paper “A World Without Quanta?” I show that Planck's Law for blackbody radiation is an exact mathematical truism that describes the interaction of measurement. Thou this derivation uses continuous processes and not energy quanta, I demonstrate how 'energy quanta' come about! Absorption of energy in discrete 'equal size sips' (quanta) explains also why the thermometer comes to a resting value rather than approaching that value asymptotically but never reaching it (as would be the case if measurement was analog/continuous).

Best wishing,


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Constantinos Ragazas replied on Feb. 17, 2011 @ 02:04 GMT
Just a final thought to my above post.

Reading the title to your essay, I have to strongly disagree. You have this backwards! Nature is continuous while our measurements of nature are discrete. In my view' "energy propagates continuously while interacts discretely".

Read my essay!

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Anonymous replied on Feb. 17, 2011 @ 17:51 GMT
Hello Constantinos,

What is analog and what is digital depends of course on the respective definitions.

Analog quantities are defined in my essay as "medium dependent" quantities. Their values have to be measured, i.e. some interactions are necessary, and the measurement outcomes are indirect values, "read out" as proportional/relative values. Analog need not necessarily mean continuous here.

Digital quantities are defined as quantities attributed to objects in an "act of recognition", as "object properties". E.g., at some point we may discover a new fundamental particle, as different from other fundamental particles and irreducible to any combination of them. This particle is then named, and their properties are also identified and possibly named if unknown previously. The particle name or identification, and the particle properties are digital by definition as such. The particle as an object is identified by their attributed properties, so in a sense, "the properties make the particle".

The fundamental particles at te lowest level are assumed to have no internal structure, therefore "the matter they are built of" is unknown. Fundamental particles are therefore rather abstract objects, digital as abstract from the unknown "medium".

Therefore, the Reality may be seen as a layered structure, where the lowest layer is the "Unknown", the layer above is the digital "Fundamental Particles Level", and the next layers may be then regarded as analog/digital, depending on the "building blocks" we need (atoms, molecules, etc.). This structure is build up like a virtual machine structure in a computer system, you may take a look at my somewhat dated slides/paper on Virtualization

I wrote my essay in a hurry to meet the deadline, as "one shot text", with almost no structure, figures, etc., therefore it may be a bit hard to read, my apologies.

I'll certainly read your essay, and possible also comment on it.

Best regards,


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Author Joachim J. Wlodarz replied on Feb. 17, 2011 @ 17:56 GMT
Oops, this Anonymous fellow above is me, the poor Author :-)

I was logged on for sure before I started the writing, so maybe there is a timeout, or so.

Anonymous wrote on Mar. 8, 2011 @ 19:18 GMT

Very interesting take on the subject. I particularly liked your;

"In consequence, analog data are always medium-dependent, while their digital incarnations may exist as abstractions, enjoing the independendence from any physical medium."

I think there is more behind that than first vibrates the brain cells! I agree entirely. Best of luck.


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Author Joachim J. Wlodarz replied on Mar. 23, 2011 @ 10:29 GMT
Hello Peter,

Thank you very much for the nice comment and apologies for my late reaction, it seems that I simply overlooked two consecutive short postings while answering to the next two late in the night, probably not without some unwanted help from the browser I've used :-)

Indeed, such passages may sound metaphysical, if not religious at the first sight, but such abstractions are in everyday use now in digital technology.

Best regards,


Paul Halpern wrote on Mar. 11, 2011 @ 16:29 GMT
Dear Joachim,

Interesting essay. I like how you distinguish between the process of measurement and descriptions of nature itself.

Best regards,


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Author Joachim J. Wlodarz replied on Mar. 23, 2011 @ 10:36 GMT
Hello Paul,

Thank you very much, your opinion is highly appreciated.

Best regards,


Constantinos Ragazas wrote on Mar. 14, 2011 @ 02:00 GMT
Hello again, Joachim

Since our earlier exchanges I have posted on the web a result which I think will interest you. It goes directly to the question of whether light is a particle or a wave. And, of course, this does directly to the question of the digital/analog nature of Nature. Please read “If the speed of light is constant, then light is a wave” if you have the time, and support my efforts as I seek to place the results in my essay before the panel for review.

All the best,


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Author Joachim J. Wlodarz replied on Mar. 16, 2011 @ 22:14 GMT
Hello Constantinos,

Thank you very much for the reference to your recent paper, I'm definitely interested in any classical/quantum or digital/analog questions and results.

In the meantime, I've tried to collect and read all of your previous papers on these subjects, to get the complete picture of your essay. I'll post my comments soon.

Best regards,


James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 15, 2011 @ 23:48 GMT

At this late hour I am scanning those that I have not read and found yours more readable and logical. I liked it that you provided definitions of reality, giving something to start with because definitions can vary widely.

I wonder if your prejudice is for the latter definition in your argument? It seems to be but as I said, I skimmed.

the state of things as they actually exist

i.e everything at all scales, from fundamental particles up to the whole Universe.

In the less general meaning, reality could be also assumed as

a thing that is actually experienced or seen

I will give a rating.


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Author Joachim J. Wlodarz replied on Mar. 16, 2011 @ 00:56 GMT
Hi Jim,

Yes, my prejudice is definitely for the latter, less general definition of reality.

Best regards,


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