There's a theory that involves every cool buzzword in physics. This theory links the dark energy in the universe with the way photocopies degrade over time. Find out how a loss of information may drive energy creation.

Many people reading this will have had a run-in with a photocopier at some point or another in their lives. Often they will have had several run-ins with photocopiers, and each will have been a little less pleasant. The first copy of a document looks pretty much like the original. The copy of the copy looks a little dark in the light areas and a little light in the dark areas, but still presentable. The next few copies get really rough. Straight lines fray and dissolve. Clean blank surfaces get hundreds of little specs. Eventually the whole thing moves from dense information coded in black and white to a uniform shade of gray that doesn't reveal any information at all.

Some would say this energy was lost. Others would take a look at Landauer's Principle, and say that this information has been converted into entropy, and thus evenly-distributed energy. Landauer's Principle draws parallels between information loss and the laws of thermodynamics. The dissolution of the concentrated information on a photocopy would be the same as the dissolution of a drop of warm water dropped into a pool of cold water. Over time, the energy from the concentrated energy of warm water would spread throughout the cold water, leading to an even temperature that was slightly higher than it had been when the warm water was concentrated in a single drop.

The link between the two would not be too impressive, but there is a larger thing that's moving from dense patches of energy in large colder sections to a universal tepid temperature - the universe itself. Stars require dense matter to form, but when they form, they send energy shooting off into the universe. Eventually they blow themselves apart, dispersing matter throughout the surrounding area. This is like a photocopy losing its integrity, or a warm drop of water dispersing its heat throughout a cold pool. Meanwhile, a mysterious energy is pervading the universe; dark energy. Some, looking at Landauer's Principle, which equates information with energy, believe that as the 'information' of the matter and dense star-forming clouds in the universe dissipates, it must release energy. It's this energy that is the source of the 'dark energy' that we see around us.

There is a leap in this logic. Landauer's Principle shows that loss of information can be modeled on the laws of thermodynamics, not that it actually is energy dispersed by the laws of thermodynamics. A series of waves set up in water can show people some of the wave properties of light - but that doesn't mean that the water itself obeys all the same laws as light. Still, it's a novel way of looking at the evolution of the universe, an interesting take on where dark energy comes from, and an awfully cool-sounding phrase.