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Minimum energy cost of an observation

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The minimum energy expenditure required in performing basic observations and measurements is analyzed. The energy cost, in ergs per binary unit (bit) of information, is found for three fundamental cases using idealized experimental procedures: 1) the determination of the presence (or absence) of an input signal on an indicating instrument, 2) the measurement of a time interval and 3) the measurement of a distance. The variation of energy cost with the reliability and accuracy of the experiment is determined; it is found that with a suitable procedure the minimum value ofkT ln2ergs per bit predicted by the Second Law (interpreted so as to include informational entropy) can be approached arbitrarily closely under conditions of small reliability and high accuracy. The present results are compared with those derivable from C. E. Shannon's equation for the capacity of a communication channel.

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Information Theory, IRE Transactions on  (Volume:1 ,  Issue: 3 )