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The Information: A History, a Theory, a Floodby James Gleick
"Recent appearances on the quiz show Jeopardy by the IBM supercomputer dubbed Watson have brought questions of artificial vs. human intelligence to the fore in publications as diverse as the Economist and Entertainment Weekly. The silicon beast's ability to parse natural language full of idiom and metaphor (and to phrase its answers in the form of questions) has been truly impressive. But Watson's feats would not have been possible without instantaneous access to virtually the entire sum of human knowledge via the Internet. Yet these days that's the part we find less awe-inspiring; for many of us, being able to unearth the answer to nearly any factual question in seconds is something we take for granted. Among its many goals, James Gleick's The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood aims to explain how we got here. Marc Mohan, The Oregonian (Read the entire Oregonian review)
Synopses & Reviews
James Gleick, the author of the best sellers Chaos and Genius, now brings us a work just as astonishing and masterly: a revelatory chronicle and meditation that shows how information has become the modern era's defining quality — the blood, the fuel, the vital principle of our world.
The story of information begins in a time profoundly unlike our own, when every thought and utterance vanishes as soon as it is born. From the invention of scripts and alphabets to the long-misunderstood talking drums of Africa, Gleick tells the story of information technologies that changed the very nature of human consciousness. He provides portraits of the key figures contributing to the inexorable development of our modern understanding of information: Charles Babbage, the idiosyncratic inventor of the first great mechanical computer; Ada Byron, the brilliant and doomed daughter of the poet, who became the first true programmer; pivotal figures like Samuel Morse and Alan Turing; and Claude Shannon, the creator of information theory itself.
And then the information age arrives. Citizens of this world become experts willy-nilly: aficionados of bits and bytes. And we sometimes feel we are drowning, swept by a deluge of signs and signals, news and images, blogs and tweets. The Information is the story of how we got here and where we are heading.
"In 1948, Bell Laboratories announced the invention of the electronic semiconductor and its revolutionary ability to do anything a vacuum tube could do but more efficiently. While the revolution in communications was taking these steps, Bell Labs scientist Claude Shannon helped to write a monograph for them, A Mathematical Theory of Communication, in which he coined the word 'bit' to name a fundamental unit of computer information. As bestselling author Gleick (Chaos) astutely argues, Shannon's neologism profoundly changed our view of the world; his brilliant work introduced us to the notion that a tiny piece of hardware could transmit messages that contained meaning and that a physical unit, a bit, could measure a quality as elusive as information. Shannon's story is only one of many in this sprawling history of information. With his brilliant ability to synthesize mounds of details and to tell rich stories, Gleick leads us on a journey from one form of communicating information to another, beginning with African tribes' use of drums and including along the way scientists like Samuel B. Morse, who invented the telegraph; Norbert Wiener, who developed cybernetics; and Ada Byron, the great Romantic poet's daughter, who collaborated with Charles Babbage in developing the first mechanical computer. Gleick's exceptional history of culture concludes that information is indeed the blood, the fuel, and the vital principle on which our world runs. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (starred review) (Copyright PWxyz LLC)
"Accessible and engrossing." Library Journal
"[A] tour de force....This is intellectual history of tremendous verve, insight, and significance. Unfailingly spirited, often poetic, Gleick recharges our astonishment over the complexity and resonance of the digital sphere and ponders our hunger for connectedness....Destined to be a science classic, best-seller Gleick's dynamic history of information will be one of the biggest nonfiction books of the year." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Accessible and engrossing." Library Journal
“The author’s skills as an interpreter of science shine...for completist cybergeeks and infojunkies, the book delivers a solid summary of a dense, complex subject.” Kirkus
“So ambitious, illuminating and sexily theoretical that it will amount to aspirational reading for many of those who have the mettle to tackle it... The Information is to the nature, history and significance of data what the beach is to sand.” New York Times
"No author is better equipped for such a wide- ranging tour than Mr. Gleick. Some writers excel at crafting a historical narrative, others at elucidating esoteric theories, still others at humanizing scientists. Mr. Gleick is a master of all these skills." Wall Street Journal
“A grand narrative if ever there was one...Gleick provides lucid expositions for readers who are up to following the science and suggestive analogies for those who are just reading for the plot. And there are anecdotes that every reader can enjoy...A prodigious intellectual survey.” New York Times Book Review
“A brilliant, panoramic view of how we save and communicate knowledge...and provides thrilling portraits of the geniuses behind the inventions. Provocative and illuminating.” People
“Expertly draws out neglected names and stories from history...Gleick’s skill as an expicator of counterintuitive concepts makes the chapters on logic, the stuff even most philosophy majors slept through in class, brim with tension.” Oregonlive.com
"Tremendously enjoyable. Gleick has an eye and ear for the catchy detail and observation...offers a broad and fascinating foundation, impressive in its reach. A very good read, certainly recommended." The Complete Review
Book News Annotation:
The well-known biographer of Richard Feynman and Isaac Newton, Gleick takes on the history of information, examining the increasingly complex methods and technologies that humans have used to create, transmit, store, analyze, and retrieve it. Beginning with the invention of language and mathematics, the author takes readers through the development of dictionaries, the telegraph and telephone, the 19th century "difference engine" and modern computers, information theory, and the Internet and Wikipedia, each of which built on and extended earlier knowledge and technologies. Gleick also introduces the people most closely associated with each new development, including Ada Babbage (the world's first computer programmer), mathematician Alan Turing, and Claude Shannon (the inventor of information theory). An entertaining book that rewards close reading and re-reading, The Information will appeal to science geeks and non-geeks alike. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
On the eve of the theory's 100th birthday, here is the first complete biography of Einsteins theory of general relativity, revealing the personal feuds and ideological battles, the decades of neglect, the resurgence, and now, the deep questioning of a theory that has given us black holes, dark energy, and modern cosmology.
A revelatory exploration of emerging trends in "big data"—our newfound ability to gather and interpret vast amounts of information—and the revolutionary effects these developments are producing in business, science, and society at large.
A revelatory exploration of the hottest trend in technology and the dramatic impact it will have on the economy, science, and society at large.
Which paint color is most likely to tell you that a used car is in good shape? How can officials identify the most dangerous New York City manholes before they explode? And how did Google searches predict the spread of the H1N1 flu outbreak?
The key to answering these questions, and many more, is big data. “Big data” refers to our burgeoning ability to crunch vast collections of information, analyze it instantly, and draw sometimes profoundly surprising conclusions from it. This emerging science can translate myriad phenomena—from the price of airline tickets to the text of millions of books—into searchable form, and uses our increasing computing power to unearth epiphanies that we never could have seen before. A revolution on par with the Internet or perhaps even the printing press, big data will change the way we think about business, health, politics, education, and innovation in the years to come. It also poses fresh threats, from the inevitable end of privacy as we know it to the prospect of being penalized for things we havent even done yet, based on big datas ability to predict our future behavior.
In this brilliantly clear, often surprising work, two leading experts explain what big data is, how it will change our lives, and what we can do to protect ourselves from its hazards. Big Data is the first big book about the next big thing.
How did one elegant theory incite a scientific revolution? Physicists have been exploring, debating, and questioning the general theory of relativity ever since Albert Einstein first presented it in 1915. Their work has uncovered a number of the universes more surprising secrets, and many believe further wonders remain hidden within the theorys tangle of equations, waiting to be exposed. In this sweeping narrative of science and culture, astrophysicist Pedro Ferreira brings general relativity to life through the story of the brilliant physicists, mathematicians, and astronomers who have taken up its challenge. For these scientists, the theory has been both a treasure trove and an enigma, fueling a century of intellectual struggle and triumph.. Einsteins theory, which explains the relationships among gravity, space, and time, is possibly the most perfect intellectual achievement of modern physics, yet studying it has always been a controversial endeavor. Relativists were the target of persecution in Hitlers Germany, hounded in Stalins Russia, and disdained in 1950s America. Even today, PhD students are warned that specializing in general relativity will make them unemployable. Despite these pitfalls, general relativity has flourished, delivering key insights into our understanding of the origin of time and the evolution of all the stars and galaxies in the cosmos. Its adherents have revealed what lies at the farthest reaches of the universe, shed light on the smallest scales of existence, and explained how the fabric of reality emerges. Dark matter, dark energy, black holes, and string theory are all progeny of Einsteins theory. We are in the midst of a momentous transformation in modern physics. As scientists look farther and more clearly into space than ever before, The Perfect Theory reveals the greater relevance of general relativity, showing us where it started, where it has led, and where it can still take us.
About the Author
James Gleick is our leading chronicler of science and modern technology. His first book, Chaos, a National Book Award finalist, has been translated into twenty-five languages. His best-selling biographies, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and Isaac Newton, were short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize.
Table of Contents
1. If a Person Falls Freely 1
2. The Most Valuable Discovery 12
3. Correct Mathematics, Abominable Physics 28
4. Collapsing Stars 47
5. Completely Cuckoo 66
6. Radio Days 85
7. Wheelerisms 100
8. Singularities 118
9. Unification Woes 137
10. Seeing Gravity 152
11. The Dark Universe 173
12. The End of Spacetime 193
13. A Spectacular Extrapolation 209
14. Something Is Going to Happen 223
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