There is no dark matter. Instead, information has mass, physicist says

There is no dark matter. Instead, information has mass, physicist says

For nearly 60 years, researchers have been attempting to detect dark matter. There are numerous theories, but none are substantiated by evidence. To provide an alternative to dark matter, the mass-energy-information equivalence principle combines several theories.


The motions of the stars can tell us how much matter there is in the universe. Physicists seeking to do so in the 1920s discovered a discrepancy and decided that there must be more matter in the universe than could be detected. How is this feasible?

While examining the motion of galaxies in the Coma Cluster in 1933, Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky began to wonder what kept them together. There was enough mass to keep the galaxies from merging. Zwicky proposed that cohesion was given by dark matter. However, because he lacked evidence, his theory was quickly dismissed.

Then, in 1968, astronomer Vera Rubin made a similar discovery. She was examining the Andromeda Galaxy at Kitt Peak Observatory in the southern Arizona mountains when she noticed something that puzzled her. Rubin was studying Andromeda’s rotation curve, or the rate at which the stars in the center rotate, when he saw that the stars on the outer edges moved at the same rate as those in the center, violating Newton’s laws of motion. This meant there was more matter in the galaxy than was detectable. Her punch card readouts are now regarded as the first evidence of the existence of dark matter.

Throughout the mid-1960s, many other galaxies were studied. The identical phenomenon was observed in each case. Dark matter is now considered to account for up to 27% of the cosmos. Only 5% of matter is “normal” or baryonic. That is what we can detect. Dark energy, which we can not detect, accounts for 68 percent.

The Hubble Constant, or the rate at which the universe expands, is explained by dark energy. Dark matter, on the other hand, influences how “normal” matter clumps. It keeps galaxy clusters stable. It also influences the shape of galaxies, their rotation curves, and the motion of stars within them. Dark matter even affects how galaxies influence one another.

NASA writes: ‘This graphic represents a slice of the spider-web-like structure of the universe, called the “cosmic web.” These great filaments are made largely of dark matter located in the space between galaxies.’ Credit: NASA, ESA, and E. Hallman (University of Colorado, Boulder)


Astronomers and physicists have been unable to find any evidence of dark matter since the 1970s. According to one theory, it’s all connected to space-bound things known as MACHOs (Massive Compact Halo Objects). Black holes, supermassive black holes, brown dwarfs, and neutron stars are instances of these.

Another theory holds that dark matter is made up of a sort of non-baryonic matter known as WIMPS (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles). Baryonic matter is made up of baryons such as protons and neutrons, as well as everything else that has an atomic nucleus. Electrons, neutrinos, muons, and tau particles, on the other hand, are leptons, not baryons. Despite having ten to a hundred times the mass of a proton, WIMPs’ interactions with normal matter would be weak, making them difficult to detect.

Then there are neutrinos, as previously mentioned. Did you realize that every day, massive streams of them flow from the Sun through the Earth without our noticing? They’re the focus of another theory that says that neutral neutrinos, which only interact with normal matter through gravity, are what dark matter is comprised of. Other candidates include the neutral axion and the uncharged photino, both theoretical particles.

Now, one theoretical physicist posits an even more radical notion. What if dark matter didn’t exist at all? Dr. Melvin Vopson of the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom has proposed the mass-energy-information equivalence theory. It asserts that information has mass and is the fundamental building block of the universe. This accounts for the missing mass among galaxies, effectively eliminating dark matter.


To be clear, the idea that information is an essential building block of the universe isn’t new. In the mid-20th century, Claude Elwood Shannon, the “father of the digital age,” proposed Classical Information Theory. Back in 1940, a mathematician and engineer, well-known in scientific circles but not so much outside of them, had a stroke of genius. He realized that Boolean algebra coincided perfectly with telephone switching circuits. Soon after, he demonstrated that mathematics could be used to design electrical systems.

Shannon was hired at Bell Labs to figure out how to transfer information over a system of wires. He wrote the bible on how to use mathematics to set up communication systems, establishing the foundation for the digital age. Shannon was also the first to define a bit as an unique unit of information.

There was perhaps no greater proponent of information theory than another unsung paragon of science, John Archibald Wheeler. Wheeler worked on the Manhattan Project, developed the “S-Matrix” with Niels Bohr, and assisted Einstein in developing a unified theory of physics. In his later years, he proclaimed, “Everything is information.” Then he set about exploring the links between quantum mechanics and information theory.

He also coined the phrase “it from bit,” which means that every particle in the universe comes from the information contained inside it. In 1989, Wheeler stated at the Santa Fe Institute that everything, from particles to forces to the fabric of spacetime itself, “… derives its purpose, meaning, and very existence altogether… from the apparatus-elicited replies to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits.”


Vopson takes this notion one step further. He claims that not only is information the basic unit of the universe, but it is also energy and has mass. He unifies and coordinates special relativity with the Landauer Principle to support this assertion. Rolf Landauer inspired the latter. In 1961, he anticipated that erasing even a single piece of information would result in a small amount of heat, which he calculated. According to Landauer, this shows that information is more than merely a mathematical quantity. This connects information to energy. The Landauer Principle has survived years of experimental testing.

Vopson says, “He [Landauer] first identified the link between thermodynamics and information by postulating that logical irreversibility of a computational process implies physical irreversibility.” According to Vopson, this proves that information is physical and establishes a relationship between information theory and thermodynamics.

According to Vopson’s theory, once created, information has “finite and quantifiable mass.” So far, it only relates to digital systems, but it might very well apply to analog, biological, and even quantum or relativistic-moving systems. “The mass-energy-information equivalence principle may take future directions in relativity and quantum mechanics,” he argues.

Vopson outlines the mathematical basis for his hypothesis in a study published in the journal AIP Advances. “I am the first to propose the mechanism and the physics by which information acquires mass,” he said, “as well as to formulate this powerful principle and to propose a possible experiment to test it.”


To measure the mass of digital information, you start with an empty data storage device. Next, you measure its total mass with a highly sensitive measuring apparatus. Then you fill it and calculate its mass. Then you remove one file and re-evaluate it. The problem is that the “ultra-accurate mass measurement” device mentioned in the paper does not yet exist. An interferometer, similar to LIGO, would be used. Or perhaps an ultrasensitive weighing machine akin to a Kibble balance.

“Currently, I am in the process of applying for a small grant, with the main objective of designing such an experiment, followed by calculations to check if detection of these small mass changes is even possible,” Vopson says. “Assuming the grant is successful and the estimates are positive, then a larger international consortium could be formed to undertake the construction of the instrument.” He added, “This is not a workbench laboratory experiment, and it would most likely be a large and costly facility.” If eventually proved correct, Vopson will have discovered the fifth form of matter.

So, what’s the connection to dark matter? Vopson says, “M.P. Gough published an article in 2008 in which he worked out … the number of bits of information that the visible universe would contain to make up all the missing dark matter. It appears that my estimates of information bit content of the universe are very close to his estimates.”

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