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Physics in Perspective

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 69–97 | Cite as

Informing Physics: Jacob Bekenstein and the Informational Turn in Theoretical Physics

  • Israel BelferEmail author
Article

Abstract

In his PhD dissertation in the early 1970s, the Mexican-Israeli theoretical physicist Jacob Bekenstein developed the thermodynamics of black holes using a generalized version of the second law of thermodynamics. This work made it possible for physicists to describe and analyze black holes using information-theoretical concepts. It also helped to transform information theory into a fundamental and foundational concept in theoretical physics. The story of Bekenstein’s work—which was initially opposed by many scientists, including Stephen Hawking—highlights the transformation within physics towards an information-oriented scientific mode of theorizing. This “informational turn” amounted to a mild-mannered revolution within physics, revolutionary without being rebellious.

Keywords

Black holes thermodynamics black hole thermodynamics information theory information entropy generalized second law information bound quantum information theory Maxwell’s demon John Wheeler Jacob Bekenstein Stephen Hawking 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Professor Jacob Bekenstein for allowing me to meet with him and learn first-hand about his work in black hole thermodynamics, its development and ramifications. I would also like to thank Professor Silvan S. Schweber for the constant support and for suffering through the various drafts. This work was made possible thanks to the support of the Edelstein Center, Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Jacques Loeb Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Life SciencesBen-Gurion University of the NegevBeer ShevaIsrael

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