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267 of 283 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History & Explanation of "Information" With Biographies
James Gleick, a prominent journalist, biographer of scientists and explainer of physics has usefully turned his attention to the single most important phenomena of the twenty-first century, the study and quantification of information. This book explains, provides a historical context and gives biographies of the most important explorers of information phenomena...
Published on February 2, 2011 by Ira Laefsky

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154 of 162 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent at times, but uneven and fragmented
I recommend this book's discussion of information theory, a topic that is sadly underrepresented in the popular press. Glieck provides a decent historical overview of Shannon and Turing, and the book starts to pick up steam when discussing Norbert Wiener and cybernetics. The subsequent chapter on informational and thermodynamic entropy is an excellent non-mathematical...
Published on May 30, 2011 by whiteelephant


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267 of 283 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History & Explanation of "Information" With Biographies, February 2, 2011
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James Gleick, a prominent journalist, biographer of scientists and explainer of physics has usefully turned his attention to the single most important phenomena of the twenty-first century, the study and quantification of information. This book explains, provides a historical context and gives biographies of the most important explorers of information phenomena throughout the centuries. Gleick provides biographical sketches of lesser known figures in the history of information such as Robert Caudrey compiler of the first known English dictionary and John F. Carrington chronicler of "The Talking Drums of Africa"; he (Gleick) gives fuller personal histories of Samuel F. Morse, Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace; Gleick reserves the most extensive biographical treatment for those who "mathematized" the phenomena of information: Claude Shannon and Alan Turing.

Gleick, a science journalist and chronicler of physics provides interesting background material and simple enough explanations for anyone who wishes to learn about the areas of information theory that influence our times, technologies and businesses. He also gives enough detail for the interested undergraduate student whose field is not primarily in the sciences. But, the unification of science, phenomena, history and biography is also of considerable interest to those like myself who have extensive training in the "information sciences" but seek a wider context for their previously acquired knowledge.

One slight criticism, I have for this otherwise excellent and comprehensive review of the theory of information and its history, is in the area of its relation to physics and the structure of the world (universe). The relationship and application of information theory to physical phenomena is a theory first espoused by Konrad Zuse, a German computer pioneer and Edward Fredkin the proponent of "digital physics". Given that Gleick's attraction and interest for information theory was probably sparked by his study of the history and explanation of physical phenomena, and his penchant for biography I would have expected more background on these explorers of the nature of physical reality as information.

This excellent history of "information science" is a must read for all who seek to understand the phenomena and technologies of the coming century.

--Ira Laefsky, MSE/MBA
Information Technology Consultant and Researcher
Formerly on the Senior Technical Staff of Arthur D. Little, Inc and Digital Equipment Corporation
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154 of 162 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent at times, but uneven and fragmented, May 30, 2011
I recommend this book's discussion of information theory, a topic that is sadly underrepresented in the popular press. Glieck provides a decent historical overview of Shannon and Turing, and the book starts to pick up steam when discussing Norbert Wiener and cybernetics. The subsequent chapter on informational and thermodynamic entropy is an excellent non-mathematical overview of a tricky topic. It is only surpassed by Chapter 12, which is a fascinating elucidation of algorithmic information theory, which as Chaitlin put it, was "the result of putting Shannon's information theory and Turing's computability theory into a cocktail shaker and shaking vigorously." It's unsurprising that this is Glieck's strength, due to his earlier writing on chaos.

Unfortunately the rest of the book falls far short of this strong standard. Glieck attempts to tackle too much, offering forgettable takes on topics including dictionaries, telegraphs, Charles Babbage, Wikipedia, memes, and information surfeit. These topics are not well-anchored to the central topic of information theory, and serve to muddle the work. But most disappointingly, the chapters on biology (Ch. 10) and quantum physics (Ch. 13) leave a ton to be desired. Glieck barely scratches the surface of the application of information theory to biology (particularly neuroscience), and the discussion of quantum information begs many more questions to be answered. What Glieck does introduce about these topics is disjointed and in need of serious editing. For instance, Glieck introduces Christopher Fuchs and quantum information theory, but before the discussion really goes anywhere, he shifts to a cursory discussion of black holes and information before shifting to an equally vacuous discussion of quantum computation and teleportation.

Thus, I can only half-recommend this book. There are parts I strongly recommend (Ch. 9,12), parts that are pretty good (Ch. 6-8), parts that are tangential and forgettable (roughly half), and other parts that are very disappointing and in need of serious expansion (Ch. 10,13).
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197 of 211 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating History of Information Technology, February 14, 2011
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Where did the telegraph, telephone and computers come from anyway? Author James Gleick's new book, "The Information" sheds light inside the black box.

In a revealing work, backed by painstaking research, James Gleick, has combed the archives to show us some absorbing details and insights on how the structure of information progressed from clay tablets to telegraph to cloud technology.

This is a hefty book, but its theme can be shortly stated. Mr. Gleick believes "in the long run, history is the story of information becoming aware of itself."

Context can be everything in historical interpretation, as James Gleick makes clear in his convincing prolog that "the alphabet was a founding technology of information; the telephone, the fax machine, the calculator and, ultimately the computer are only the latest innovations devised for saving, manipulating, and communicating knowledge." Mr. Gleick's narrative builds into a fulfilling and thought-provoking story.

The author begins with the amazing tale of how African drums communicated, then shifts to Robert Cawdrey's "Table Alphabeticall in 1604. He shows us how time and space are minimized and global consciousness realized.

At more than 500 pages, with few illustrations, this book looks terrifying. But the pages dissolve quickly as Mr. Gleick introduces us to a range of vivid characters, such as colorful Charles Babbage, the inventor of the ever growing difference machine in 1822.

After twenty years of development it weighed 15 tons with over 25,000 precision parts. But by 1842 the British government had grown weary of Babbage's pork barrel project. "What shall we do to get rid of Mr. Babbage and his calculating machine?" asked Prime Minister Robert Peel. "Surely if completed it would be worthless as far as science is concerned... It will be in my opinion a very costly toy."

But another fascinating part of the story, of course, is of the strange men, and the strange world they inhabited at Bell Laboratories, doing research on code breaking and anti-aircraft gun control during World War II. There was ego and rivalry and brilliance aplenty in those days. We meet Alan Turing, and brillant oddballs like Norbert Weiner and Claude Shannon, who were brought in from other institutions, to imagine and to challenge each other.

This is a book full of great details, like Richard Dawkins's memes: ideas, tunes, catch phases and images that "propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain" through imitation. Claude Chappe's vast network of optical telegraph towers transferring messages by semaphore across revolutionary France in twelve minutes. And an amazing robot mouse developed by the inventor of information theory, Claude Shannon, that could learn to flawlessly navigate a maze back in 1950.

Some of the narrative may seem pretty heavy- going. For readers who are not versed in the subject, it may seem to be almost impenetrable. After a bit, one realizes this book is not written for the general reader.

Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with a scholarly conversation and nothing wrong with a book that assumes its readers will already know something about computer science. As a book for specialists this has its pleasures, from Mr. Gleick's learned discussion of boolean algebra to the German ENIGMA code machine in World War II and the workings of a telephone switchboard invented by the George W. McCoy, the world's first telephone operator.

Mr. Gleick's affection for his subject is so complete -- and completely convincing -- his style is so modest and his research is so thorough that "The Information" manages to be engaging, instructive and thought-provoking, all at once.

Scientific work may not be very glamorous, but "The Information" shows that it can be vitally important, and also surprisingly amusing.

The author could easily have written a fine book focused more narrowly on the development of computers. Mr. Gleick is the kind of historian who excels at showing how everything is connected. He tells us, "hardly any information technology goes obsolete. each new one throws its predecessors into relief." In this investigation, few books could provide a surer guide.

Mr. Gleick is familiar with the vast number of written sources. This book is clearly not intended to be the last word on information technology. But for any readers wanting a learned, entertaining and lucid introduction to a notoriously complex subject, it should certainly be their first.
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265 of 307 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1,729 put that in your pipe and smoke it., February 16, 2011
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James Gleick is in that tiny top tier of science and technology authors who work slowly, quietly and painstakingly to help us understand things both difficult and important. He does not spend his time dancing for the media. He does not toss off books on a set schedule while Gladwellhanding on tour for books with titles like "Burp!" And he is stylist enough to present the context of the human, the social. His works on chaos and on Feynman are bright treasure with a touch of fun.

Right out of the gate, Mr. Gleick introduces Claude Shannon. In the same year Bell Labs came out with the transistor, Shannon (of said lab) gave new meaning to an ancient word, "bit". Shannon, rare bird of a technologist and mathematician, was consumed by messages and their meaning, i.e. information content. He wanted to do for information what Newton (another Gleick tome) had done for force, mass and motion. He set about integrating information into science and mathematics, abstracting theory and structure. The BIG difference between Shannon and Newton is that mechanics were to be immutable yardsticks of the universe. Information was forged in the souls of its millions of creators. It was shaped by heartbeats, circuits, character sets and symbols. Encoding takes many forms and flourishes whether the slip of a slide rule or a slide trombone. It does not stay put and jumps from logical to physical and back again, but wearing different clothes. Astounded within pages, I buckled my academic seatbelt.

Then back he leaps to the Homeric, the African where poetry around fires and where thrumming drums could repeat and relay messages across generations or across a hundred miles in an hour. It would take millennia before they were shunted, transformed and abstracted, losing their essential character. It would take alphabet and electricity, before quantity, frequency, speed and duration would magnify an order or two each of magnitude and of scope.

For us the danger of the drums stopping is the threat of a bass solo. For Africa it would have been like cable going dark. What Africa had was a language family that was not alphabet centric. The Indo-European family gradually abstracted tone from language and tried to lash it to music (though words muscled in anyway). So we had to wait for a Morse to encode words into electric pulses. Alphabet was the intermediary between existing words and a code. Mr. Gleick takes us through some of the ideas and the details showing the complexity, power and beauty of drum language. Such is the heavy lifting we are paying this kind of author to do for us.

Yet even in telegraphy, the mind/body problem seeps in. Keyers could distinguish each other by hearing, nay feeling their personal touch. Imposter agents were discovered just this way during wars. A different layer of information was riding the dits and dots. Another meta construction was to match the most used letters and combinations with the simplest strokes, saving untold millions of taps. We did just the reverse with the Qwerty keyboard, designed to maximize the finger distance across keys to stop the hammers jamming. Now the mechanical is gone, but we cling to the past. Some people imagine, out of some odd sentiment, that this is only an urban legend of evil intent. The engineering strategy was to relieve the propensity to jam hammers, not to foist off a bad design. Now, that safeguard is no longer useful.

Mr. Gleick achieves fresh and deep insight by not looking at the past merely in terms of the present, e.g. a horse is a car without tires. Historians fall into this error; politicians do it to disinform, distort and distract. Instead, he trots out the great and forgotten Fr. Ong, S.J. along with Marshall Mcluhan to testify how those involved in the creation thought and wished. And he is guru enough (slayer of darkness) to describe the spread of alphabet as viral: "The alphabet spread by contagion." Brilliant illumination.

As he traces these metamorphoses, it is the meta layer that he focuses his beam upon. He shows us the how of building the philosophy and the technology of abstraction. One of the oldest recordings I have heard is of oral tradition poetry, an epic recited from memory thousands of lines long. The integrity of the replication was achieved partially from phrasing (wine dark sea) but mostly from sound itself, tone and meter. It was fast, driving and percussive, the antithesis of beat culture café recitation. Clay tablets, papyrus and parchment were a long way off to serve as a new abstraction of meaning from sound. Ever hear somebody babble that pseudo distinction "written AND verbal" ? They mean written and spoken. The distinction opposing verbal is symbolic, not written. When you confuse, you lose.

We tour the interplay of symbol, alphabet and counting marks into words, logic and mathematics. Mr. Gleick has just the right touch of detail to let us touch and feel, to play with his revelations, not just gliding over them, assuming we get it. We spend that extra minute on each example, like having a little Newton on our shoulder.

This book is not simply a history. I learned some history, but as a side dish. It is about, as the title says so neatly, The Information. One of the meta threads traced is the interplay of information with sheer physicality. The drums - their constituent materials and their medium produce together sound waves. Yet the same physicality that propels this information also exhausts it in volume, frequency and distance. Then it is a convergence of succeeding waves that moves forward. Babbage's calculating machine (he a charter member of the Philosophical Breakfast Club) propels by wheels, gears and cranks until the limits of brass are exhausted. We meet Lady Augusta Ada Byron King, Countess (what a natural pun about numbers) Lovelace. She is another almost forgotten genius of information, immortalized at least by programmers in their eponymous language, Ada.

So on to electricity. Mr. Gleick treats telegraph, telephone and television all as stepping stones leading us into the flood, as his subtitle suggests. Even now we are bumping up against the limits of electricity in speed and heat, at least in the materials that shape and carry it through chips and wires. When ENIAC first needed chilled water to cool its vacuum tubes we knew new limits. Whither computing? Organic computers. Physicality again. The quantum computer.

Concurrently we pursue the self correcting system and the self adapting system. As Turing asked nobody in particular, "Can machines think?" Now we hit new limits of the logical kind. Godel and his incompleteness theory snarl new knots. We are quoted Watson "Thought interferes with the probability of events, and, in the long run, with entropy." Salvation is thus yoked to damnation and I think Gleick is Faust.

Break your head on this brave book. Find your limits, as Einstein told us to do, so that we may thus overcome them. In a world of swirling negatives, find some informative energy and bathe in endorphins.

For those of you who appreciate a well made book, this one is set in a lovely and effect variant of Garamond of the 16th century, in turn based upon the Venetian models as published by Geoffrey Torey. This font is made modern as "Adobe Garamond" by Robert Simbach. Everything old is new again.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars great book but not on kindle, June 30, 2011
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All the other positive reviews cover the content but before buying the kindle version consider -- 40% of the book is notes and there isn't a good way to move back and forth between text and notes. So you can read the book and then read the notes without knowing what they referred to. I would recommend buying it on paper.
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119 of 142 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is it information or noise?, March 11, 2011
Excellent book in many respects. In the end though I found it confusing and the confusion rests squarely with the single most important point of the book, Claude Shannon's definition of information. Based on this definition information is everything and if it's everything, well that is a very confusing thing indeed.

Gleick is obviously a Claude Shannon fan and Shannon's fame is well deserved. Communications theory and to a degree our modern world rests on his popularizing the mathematical definition of information. (It is not clear who first came up with the mathematical definition of information.)

Though Gleick recognizes the importance of word definitions to scientifc progress, pointing to the example of Newton defining force, mass, and motion, the question is did Shannon get the definition of information right? Indeed has the scientific community gotten it right? Did Shannon found information theory or communications theory? Is Shannon's particular definition of information as anything which reduces uncertainty but devoid of meaning a good one for scientific progress?

Gleick gives short shrift to the debate on this question in the Macy Conferences on cybernetics, and short shrift in my opinion to Norbert Wiener, Shannon's professor at MIT. Gleick obviously doesn't like Wiener; to be sure by all accounts he was prickly and something of a meglomaniac and if ever there was a bad name selected for an important idea, "cybernetics" wins the prize. Shannon on the other hand by all accounts including Gleick's was a nice man in addition to being a genius, not prickly, and not a meglomaniac. But who was right? Should information be defined as devoid of meaning?

For communications, it does not matter whether information is devoid of meaning, as communications is about duplicating a signal or message. Whether the signal or message has meaning is irrelevant. Indeed Shannon's 1948 paper said to have founded information theory was titled "A mathematical theory of communications", not a mathematical theory of information.

To Wiener information could not be separated from control and purpose (or goal or target or stasis depending on your preferences)and therefore not separate from meaning. Wiener's book, a worldwide best seller, also published in 1948, is titled Cybernetics, Communications and Control in the Animal and Machine. Cybernetics includes the definition of information that Shannon uses, though it is information within the context of a feedback control loop. So who had the better definition of information, Shannon or Wiener?

I think Wiener. Information unconnected to a feedback control loop is a signal or message or data, all of which can be devoid of meaning. The scientific definition of information though should require that information to be information be connected to something else, it informs for the purpose of control, at all levels down to the quantum.

Though the scientific community as represented by Glieck and Wikipedia is of the opinion that Shannon founded information theory, I think things would be a lot less confusing and we could make more scientific progress if we take a different tack here and give Shannon credit for founding communications theory, very important to be sure, but not information theory.

To me Gleick in his celebration of Shannon and his dislike of Wiener adds to the confusion about this very important thing called information. Information defined as without meaning leads to confusion, information becomes everything. I hope the scientific community revisits and settles on a definition of information that makes information part of a feedback control loop. Then information beomes not everything, but rather a specific thing that helps to better explain why the world is the way it is.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of fascinating signal, plus some interesting noise, February 17, 2011
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If you were a skilled, award-winning science writer, what subject would you choose to research for a major new book? What subject has not been comprehensively covered, and is worthy of years of your time? We are lucky that Gleick picked information. Information? That is what Bell Labs called "a mathematical theory of communication" in 1948, and with IBM's Watson program winning the TV show Jeopardy! now is a great time for a smart, smooth, engrossing book on this subject.

"Fred Dretske, a philosopher of mind and knowledge, wrote in 1981: In the beginning there was information. The word came later." This book lets me understand the difference here. It lets me understand the broad sweep of information science, which is as a subject is as misunderstood (yet all encompassing) as chaos, entropy, or energy. As the sub-title states, the book is a history. We read about talking drums in Africa, alphabets, telegraphs, Charles Babbage, Ada Byron, Alan Turing, Claude Shannon, codes and cyphers, the differential analyzer, memes, Wikipedia, on and on in a clean but deft writing style. The book also talks theory, encompassing and connecting some of the biggest most interesting ideas in science, including Gödel's incompleteness theorem, Alan Turing's halting problem, and the question of what is random and what is life. The book is also a flood, for the theory and history of information both point to logarithmic growth. We are all seeing the flood of information on our smartphones and networks .

The huge scope of the project of course means some things must be left out to leave a readable coherent whole, but it's a good sign that after reading 400+ pages I still wanted more. Like information on those square 2-D bar-codes that are popping up everywhere. They look random, but contain information (and I think would have made a better cover picture!). Absolutely no math skills are required. For folks with deeper interests in certain areas, the book is fully referenced. And a perfect deeper reading companion edited by Paul Davies and Niels Henrik Gregersen has just been published -- Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics -- for those who are hooked. I hope you find this review helpful.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't be put off by the vague if you read this one..., June 30, 2011
By 
atibamanii (Philadelphia, PA) - See all my reviews
I begin by saying to my middle school algebra teacher, "Damn, why didn't you just say so?" At the risk of revealing my age, I can tell you that mathematics as taught in my elementary school era certainly lacked certain clarity in the fact that rote memorization played a totally unnecessary role as far as I was concerned. Luckily for me, I knew how to manipulate money long before I went to school, so the patterns in math were already obvious. Then suddenly there were these little xs and ys and I was completely thrown for a loop! "Why are these letters slinking around with my beloved numbers?" I thought. Gee, I wish my teacher had just given me Charles Babbage to read. After the initial shock, the patterns that I knew so well did return and I moved on, loving algebra, but the process would have been so much smoother had someone simply told me to think of the "x" as an empty box waiting for the right number to complete the pattern!

I am not a math and science whiz by any stretch of the imagination; I am, however, in awe of both and always have been. As far as I'm concerned, it takes a bazillion times more creativity to discover and prove a math or science concept than it does to write a story or poem. Literature is limited by the human experience and needs no proof. Math and science have no limits--think universe and infinity--and if you are unable to prove your theory, you will not become a part of the conversation unless, of course, someone else can prove your theory.

The Information, as I see it, is about just that, extraordinary people seeing the patterns first, forming a theory, beginning their proofs, and others building on those proofs until new understandings emerge. It's an exciting and wonderful journey!

If you are the type of person that must understand and see clearly every concept mentioned in the book you are reading, don't pick this one up. (Although, I've never understood why people who can read Oscar Wilde or T. S. Eliot comfortably can become so uncomfortable reading a book like Mr. Gleick's that they would put it down and consider it too difficult to understand.) I have a high tolerance for the vague; it doesn't bother me. There is a lot in this book that is vague to me, but I was constantly rewarded with so many "Ah ha!" moments that it did not interfere with my total enjoyment.

For example, how do you write about a theory before there are clear and concise words to describe it? Words that everyone can agree upon must first be written about. "...where Newton wanted words for nature's laws, Wittgenstein wanted words for words..." The limitation of words is that you must use words to describe them! Did you know that your teenager wasn't the first to use expressions such as "lol" and "bff" to communicate? I did not, but when telegrams were charged by the word, people adapted by doing exactly the same thing--see page 154. Then there is the redundancy in language factor demonstrated nicely by one of my favorites, the James Merrill poem and 1970s subway sign "If U Cn Rd Ths, u cn gt a gd jb w hi pa." "Bit" is a combination of binary and digit. Duh, but I truly did not know this!

Near the end of the story, we go from bits to bytes, to megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes and I found myself reading faster and faster and... as if experiencing the John Lanier quote up close and personal, "It's as if you kneel to plant the seed of a tree and it grows so fast that it swallows your whole town before you can even rise to your feet." (Reminds me of The Blob and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.)

We've moved from an oral culture where words/impressions were dissipated/forgotten or changed down the line--like kids sitting in a circle playing the game Telephone--to terabytes+ of the same set in code and then disseminated exponentially through our technology. Personally I like that idea; it doesn't scare me at all. Can you tell? I loved this book!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A curious book, March 30, 2011
By 
For better and for worse, "The Information", James Gleick's new book about the same, is not what I expected. Using math, science, philosophy and other areas of human knowledge, Gleick sets out to tell us how information developed, spread and mutated. There's a lot to recommend here.

From African tribal drums to Google and Wikipedia, the author lumbers along in a quasi-chronological order. Along the way, he has two prizes to introduce...men who appeared at critical junctures in information change. One is Claude Shannon, a twentieth century Bell Telephone Laboratories employee and wunderkind who consistently seems to be in the right place at the right time. (if you've never heard of Shannon before, you will certainly know him by book's end) The other is Charles Babbage, a nineteenth century Englishman, whose analytical engine kept his countrymen enraptured for years and the British government underwriting his endeavors for two decades.

When Gleick is good, he's very good. A chapter on the telegraph crackles under a superb narrative. There's crackling in the air and on the page. But a chapter concerning entropy is about as exciting as watching the grass grow. (too often Gleick sounds like a college professor giving a lecture) Yet he bounces back with a good description of genes and DNA that is excellent. These troubling inconsistencies, however, keep a good book from becoming an extraordinary one.

There are many fine moments in "The Information"...moments that shine with terrific and attractive writing. I just wish there had been more of them.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Trifle Disorganized, but Great Fun, February 16, 2011
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First, I'd like to state that I disagree with Mssr. Shakespeare's review in one critical regard. I think that this book IS intended for the general reader, and that they will understand and appreciate it. Admittedly, it isn't the facile and easily chewed up and spit out drivel that Malcolm Gladwell peddles, but if you want that, go elsewhere.

That said, I will not comment on the contents, as others have already done so, and quite well (particularly the esteemed Mssr. Shakespeare and Mssr. Aceto.

I do have a few comments that may be helpful for the people interested in this book, though.

First, again, this IS intended for general readers, but they must be committed to stretching a little. I consider myself an average reader, and I had to stretch a little for certain aspects of this. Certainly, the rewards are well worth it, as it is full of tasty anecdotes and pleasant little ditties.

That said, I would use my second point to warn about the snarls of the organization. I THINK that Mssr. Gleick was intending for the book to be roughly chonologitopical. That is, he covered topics as they came up in history. While this is logical, it can get really confusing, particularly as specific individuals (like you, Mr. Babbage and you, Mr. Shannon) turn up in chapter after chapter, seemingly wandering through the story aimlessly. At one point, I started to get people mixed up, mostly because there was some discontinuity at the beginning of the book that made it much harder to follow. If you can make it the first 50 pages, you should be able to finish and, importantly, you should have learned something.

Finally, I think that it is useful (and I am going to belie what I said above) to mention the variety of topics covered in this book, including number theory, mathematical philosophy, telephony and telegraphy, the alphabet, the ubiquitously mentioned African drum talk, and then on to more disparate, less expected topics that also fit, such as genetics, the origin of dictionaries, and quantum entanglement. Despite the confusion of topics (and their potential difficulty for a lay reader), Mssr. Gleick once again makes difficult subjects approachable (and fascinatingly connects them in the minds of his readers).

All things considered, it is a nice little work, and was great fun to read. I'll certainly recommend it to friends and colleagues who are interested in stretching.

Harkius
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The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood
The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick (Paperback - March 6, 2012)
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