Is information propagated in any other way than waves? Please distinguish "propagation across a medium" from information "storage within stable states of matter", which might difuse or interact chemically.

Information might be stored in stable configurations of matter, which might diffuse, or interact chemically (odor,DNA), but these might be orders of magnitude weaker, in range and dissipation. Is there a domain in physics comparing wave vs non-wave propagation. The two most known are sensory: sound and electromagnetic propagation. I think gravity probes are still searching for waves in this medium.

Why does nature prefer waves for long distance calls? Perhaps because it involves a minimum dissipation of energy?

  • $\begingroup$ But “A pressure pulse propagating in the water or atmosphere” is a wave. $\endgroup$
    – Flavin
    Nov 4, 2013 at 19:13
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    $\begingroup$ Books are an example of transmitting information through non-wave propagation $\endgroup$
    – legrojan
    Nov 4, 2013 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ good point! If there are no non-wave methods, WHY? $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2013 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ like! books response... but how do you read the print in the absence of (light) waves $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2013 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ The reading part is common to all kinds of instrumentation. The information reaches us through our senses - usually through waves. Incidentally, smelling is another example of non-wave propagation of information. $\endgroup$
    – legrojan
    Nov 4, 2013 at 19:28

1 Answer 1


Expanding on legrojan's comment:

Smelling is a great example of information transfer that doesn't occur via a wave. "Information" comes to your sensory organ in the form of trace molecules in the atmosphere. Those molecules get to you through a diffusion process. And the diffusion equation is different from the wave equation.

In fact, once our sensory organs are stimulated, the information propagates in our brains partially as a wave and partially diffusively. When a nerve impulse travels down an axon, it does so as a wave called the action potential. But once that wave reaches the synapse, the information it represents has to cross to the next nerve cell by releasing neurotransmitters which diffuse across the synaptic gap.

To reiterate: information can be transferred via diffusion, which is a method of transfer other than waves.


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