gleick the information

Book review
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood.
James Gleick.
Pantheon Books, 2011. 526 p.

The Information spoke to James Gleick. It instructed him to write a history of nearly everything that has been called information. The story would be scholarly, yet informal. It would contain 45 pages of notes and a 26-page bibliography.  Its 21-page index would include 10 entries for “information overload” and 19 entries for “information theory. The entertaining tale would incorporate substantial references to many people and many ideas, including but not limited to:

Abstraction, catalogues of information, cyberspace, evolution, mathematics, numbers, recursive procedures, telephone, writing.

Alrogithms, channels, energy, logic, machines, neurophysiology, randomness, thermodynamics, meaning, redundancy, quantum physics, time.

Alphabets, communication, error correction, measurement  of  information, networks, telegraphy, probability, symbolic logic, calculating machines, memes  and  memetics, Oxford English Dictionary.

Analytical Engines, culture, cryptography, electricity, knowledge, noise, quantum information science, self-replication, Turing machines.

Charles Babbage, bits, computation, Ada Lovelace, economics, genetics, patterns, signals and signaling,  thinking, uncertainty.

Bell Laboratories, code, English language, incompleteness theorem, memory, paradoxes,  Claude Shannon, transmission of information, entropy, language.

James Gleick (www.around.com) is author of Chaos: Making a New Science; Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and other titles including a biography of Isaac Newton, all of which served to prepare him for creating this epic tale.


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