Discrete lattice systems have had a long and productive history in physics. Examples range from exact theoretical models studied in statistical mechanics to approximate numerical treatments of continuum models. There has, however, been relatively little attention paid to exact lattice models which obey an invertible dynamics: From any state of the dynamical system you can infer the previous state. This kind of microscopic reversibility is an important property of all microscopic physical dynamics. Invertible lattice systems become even more physically realistic if we impose locality of interaction and exact conservation laws. In fact, some invertible and momentum conserving lattice dynamics—in which discrete particles hop between neighboring lattice sites at discrete times—accurately reproduce hydrodynamics in the macroscopic limit.
These kinds of discrete systems not only provide an intriguing information-dynamics approach to modeling macroscopic physics, but they may also be supremely practical. Exactly the same properties that make these models physically realistic also make them efficiently realizable. Algorithms that incorporate constraints such as locality of interaction and invertibility can be run on microscopic physical hardware that shares these constraints. Such hardware can, in principle, achieve a higher density and rate of computation than any other kind of computer.
Thus it is interesting to construct discrete lattice dynamics which are more physics-like both in order to capture more of the richness of physical dynamics in informational models, and in order to improve our ability to harness physics for computation. In this chapter, we discuss techniques for bringing discrete lattice dynamics closer to physics, and some of the interesting consequences of doing so.