WHAT is the universe made of? Matter or energy? Particles or strings? According to physicist Vlatko Vedral's appealing new book, it is made, at bottom, of information.
In other words, if you break the universe into smaller and smaller pieces, the smallest pieces are, in fact, bits.
With this theme in mind, Vedral embarks on an exuberant romp through physics, biology, philosophy, religion and even personal finance. By turns irreverent, erudite and funny, Decoding Reality is - by the standard of books that require their readers to know what a logarithm is - a ripping good read.
A bit is the tiniest unit of information. It represents the distinction between two possibilities: yes or no, true or false, zero or one. The word "bit" also refers to the physical system representing that information: in your computer's hard drive, for example, a bit is registered by a minuscule magnet whose north pole can point up or down.
Finally, Vedral holds out hope for those readers who wish to entertain the notion of a relationship between the paradoxes of quantum mechanics and Vedic philosophy.
Not since David Deutsch's magisterial The Fabric of Reality has a physicist given us such a wide-ranging and intriguing picture of how quantum mechanics constructs the world.