I could go on for years about the tons of nonsense science that comes out of the PTO policy office and the courts and many law schools when it comes to what is “physical” to then be patentable.  One of the false arguments made is that information isn’t physical to be a priori patentable.
The arguments tend to be handwaving nonsense, justified by out-of-context references to Einstein’s E=mc^2 equation, to argue that energy and matter are physical and transformable to be patentable.  But not information, despite over 100 years of thermodynamics which rests on information being physical, or the latest quantum theories in which the physical is actually an aspect of information.  No, that counts for nothing, which is why we are still having these idiotic 101 debates about software patents, since all they manipulate is information, which supposedly isn’t physical or technical (since it isn’t physical).
Well, scientists (whom the courts never cite for these 101 issues) have just completed an experiment which converts information to energy, completely putting energy – matter – information on an equal footing.
The scientists did this by creating an experimental version of Maxwell’s demon, a hypothetical entity which could work in a way to violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics (separating hot and cold molecules), but was later proven to use enough energy to do the separation to be unable to violate the Law.  I quote from an article:
The researchers set up a very miniature version of a spiral staircase and caused a molecule to climb up this staircase using information. In the setup, the staircase was actually made of potential energy
and created using electric fields. The molecule had some thermal energy – heat so it would fluctuate, moving in random directions.
The scientists used a high-speed camera to photograph the molecule. When it happened to be moving up the staircase, they let it move freely, but when it happened to be moving down the staircase, the  researchers blocked its motion by inserting a virtual wall using an electric field.
“It’s like the particle is making random steps up or down, but only when the particle goes up the stairs, we put some wall on the stairs to avoid the particle falling down,” Sano told LiveScience.  “This is kind of a Maxwell’s demon.”
As the particle moved up the staircase, it gained energy because it moved to a location of higher potential – akin to climbing a mountain.  Yet the researchers never had to push the particle up the mountain
(i.e. do work or input energy) – they simply used the information about which direction it happened to be moving in at any given time to guide the climb.
Energy boost
Not only were the researchers able to move the particle up the stairs, but they were able to precisely measure how much energy was converted from information.  The researchers describe their results in the Nov. 14 online edition of the journal Nature Physics.
In an accompanying essay in the same issue of the journal, physicist Christian Van den Broeck of the University of Hasselt in Belgium, who was not involved in the new study, called it “a direct verification of information-to-energy conversion.”
A quote for all future appeals:
“Here we demonstrate that a non-equilibrium feedback manipulation of a Brownian particle on the basis of information about its location achieves a Szilard-type information-to-energy conversion.”
So ALL references to “information” in patent claims should never, ever, never, ever again get 101 rejections for not manipulating something physical.  And ALL references to “data” should equally never, ever, never, ever get 101 rejections as well, given the relational connection between data and information.  It’s all physical – it’s all technical.
Greg Aharonian
Internet Patent News Service