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The Science of Information: From Language to Black Holes

Narrated by: Benjamin Schumacher
Length: 12 hrs and 19 mins
5 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

Non-member price: $48.69

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Publisher's Summary

The science of information is the most influential, yet perhaps least appreciated field in science today. Never before in history have we been able to acquire, record, communicate, and use information in so many different forms. This revolution goes far beyond the limitless content that fills our lives, because information also underlies our understanding of ourselves, the natural world, and the universe. Little wonder that an entirely new science has arisen that is devoted to deepening our understanding of information and our ability to use it.

The study and acquisition of information has been around a long time. In human terms, spoken language, writing, art, music, and mathematics are perfect examples; so are Morse code, Mendelian genetics, and radio signals - all understood and used before 1900. But a series of conceptual breakthroughs in the 20th century united what seemed like unrelated phenomena and led to a dramatic new way of looking at reality. Called information theory, this field has been responsible for path-breaking insights.

The Science of Information: From Language to Black Holes covers the exciting concepts, history, and applications of information theory in 24 challenging and eye-opening half-hour lectures taught by Professor Benjamin Schumacher of Kenyon College. A prominent physicist and award-winning educator at one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges, Professor Schumacher is also a pioneer in the field of quantum information, which is the latest exciting development in this dynamic scientific field.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2016 The Great Courses (P)2016 The Teaching Company, LLC

What members say

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    3 out of 5 stars

Good but a bit too theory based

A bit too theory based for an audio book I think. Decent amount of equations and writing on the board.

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  • James S.
  • 02-01-2019

Almost perfect. Broad scope with good depth.

The author-narrator does an excellent job on this; edutainment at its best. He gives very clear and concise explanations of all fundamental aspects of information theory, without wasting time on historical fill. This really is a "course", as much as it can be considered so with respect to popsci works like Gleick's "The Information" (which is pretty good in its own right, but Gleick tries way too hard to be artsy) or bio/memoir/history-ish works like "A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age" (which is alright, but doesn't get into many worthwhile details).

It's a shame these Great Courses rely on visuals, even though you don't really miss much in this one without access to them.

26 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • Mike
  • 12-01-2019

A *meaningful* course :-)

This is an amazing course, and if you're not already a fan of Benjamin Schumacher, you soon will be. This course dives into many topics one might merely bump into while reading about physics or cosmology or even philosophy. These would be, for example, the Shannon Entropy interpretation of Thermodynamics, Algorithmic (Kolmogorov) Entropy, quantum computing, and even the holographic universe. Understanding information theory is crucial to our latest understanding in many fields.

So many fields, in fact, that I loved this course best for reminding me of topics that weren't even explicitly named: the philosophy of the subjective and objective, Aristotle's distinction between potential and actual infinity, and more. In discussing entanglement and in concluding remarks on algorithmic entropy, Schumacher notes the centrality of "relationship" to "meaning", that is, no one bit or string of information has a meaningful state all on its own. Buddhists have literally said this for centuries, and more recently, Carlo Rovelli has made this the theme of his interpretation of all of reality - Relational Quantum Mechanics.

Thank you Dr Schumacher for a very meaningful course.

27 of 30 people found this review helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 12-03-2019

Not appropriate for audio-only

The Great Courses offer lots of great courses. However, they usually give us a choice between video or audio-only. The audible.com versions, are, of course, audio-only. Some lecturers or subjects work well without the visual information. This one does not.

These lectures assume that you are watching as the professor refers to various diagrams and equations, presumably shown on a blackboard or video screen. He does try to describe them, but it's hard to follow him without really being able to see what he's pointing at. There is a pdf that comes with the lectures, but it's hard to read that while you're driving.

To be clear, though, there is nothing terribly wrong with the lecturer or his speaking or his subject. It just doesn't work well without video.

Long story short: if you want to learn about Information Theory, head over to the Great Courses website and get this course in a video format (video download or DVD). If you want to listen to something interesting while you're driving (or jogging or gardening), choose a different course. There are several offered on audible.com that should work well in an audio-only format. I find that history, music and language are subjects that work fine this way.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • alr
  • 13-02-2019

A strange audiobook

The book (the first 3 hours in any case) is basic math formulas. Makes sense if you want an introduction to information theory, but you would definitely need to use the visuals, if not a video, to absorb it.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 27-01-2019

A video course without the video

This is the audio from a video course that, from the sound of it, relies intensively on visual aids, illustrations, etc. Without the video the course is impossible to follow. That this is being marketed as an audio book is a disgrace.

14 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Martin
  • 16-04-2019

Misleading Title

This should be called, “Foundations and Methods of Information Storage from Mechanical, Biological, to Quantum ”.

The speakers provides lots of info on how information is processed and stored using various technologies from mechanical to quantum. His style and lecture is difficult to follow over audio due to his use of mathematics. This is good for someone that has a good mathematical foundation and want to learn more about computers and how information is stored with various technologies.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Aurel Lazar
  • 20-03-2019

Excellent lecture series, but not very well suited for audio format

This is an incredibly interesting lecture series and the presenter does an incredible job with the material but it is obvious that this was originally a video lecture adapted to audio, as he constantly makes references to content he is showing visually.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Stanley Jungleib
  • 20-12-2018

Encouraging breadth.

Happy that he moves quickly over the obligatory founders, covered everywhere. There is a certain monomania endemic to reducing everything to bits. But there are of course good reasons that aren't going away.

btw. Moore's law is long exhausted. Adding cores doesn't increase density.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • rcy
  • 15-07-2019

Topical and Basic Book on Info Theory

Not impressed with the lecturer, very topical and basic in explanations. This could serve as a very basic intro to the study but don’t look here for anything groundbreaking.

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  • Daniel
  • 07-07-2019

Great but it should me tweaked for audiobook

It is very interesting but makes reference to a significant amount of equations, tables and graphs making it difficult to follow.