One of the defining features of living systems is their ability to process, exchange and store large amounts of information at multiple levels of organization, ranging from the biochemical to the ecological. At the same time, living entities are non-equilibrium—possibly at criticality—physical systems that continuously exchange matter and energy with structured environments, all while obeying the laws of thermodynamics. These properties not only lead to the emergence of biological information, but also impose constraints and trade-offs on the costs of such information processing. Some of these costs arise due to the particular properties of the material substrate of living matter in which information processing takes place, while others are universal and apply to all physical systems that process information.
In the past decade, the relationship between thermodynamics and information has received renewed scientific attention, attracting an increasing number of researchers and achieving significant progress. Despite this, the field is full of open problems and challenges at all levels, especially when dealing with biological systems. In spite of these difficulties, continued progress has the potential to fundamentally shape our future understanding of biology.
In this Special Issue we encourage researchers from theoretical biology, statistical physics, neuroscience, information theory, and complex systems to present their research on the connection between thermodynamics and information, with special emphasis on their implications for biological phenomena. We welcome contributions that focus on a particular biological system, as well as contributions that propose general theoretical approaches. We also welcome contributions that use mathematical techniques from statistical physics (variational methods, fluctuation theorems, uncertainty relations, etc.) to investigate biological questions.