Ray, Kyle J.; Gregory W. Wimsatt; Alexander B. Boyd and James P. Crutchfield

All computation is physically embedded. Reflecting this, a growing body of results embraces rate equations as the underlying mechanics of thermodynamic computation and biological information processing. Strictly applying the implied continuous-time Markov chains, however, excludes a universe of natural computing. We show that expanding the toolset to continuous-time hidden Markov chains substantially removes the constraints. The general point is made concrete by our analyzing two eminently-useful computations that are impossible to describe with a set of rate equations over the memory states. We design and analyze a thermodynamically-costless bit flip, providing a first counterexample to rate-equation modeling. We generalize this to a costless Fredkin gate---a key operation in reversible computing that is computation universal. Going beyond rate-equation dynamics is not only possible, but necessary if stochastic thermodynamics is to become part of the paradigm for physical information processing.