The Logician and the Engineer: How George Boole and Claude Shannon Created the Information Age Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

ISBN-13: 978-0691151007
ISBN-10: 0691151008
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Product Details

  • File Size: 5144 KB
  • Print Length: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (October 28, 2012)
  • Publication Date: October 28, 2012
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0091XBUTM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #464,326 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Wineberg TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Despite the title, the detailed description of this book on its cover and in accompanying material by its publisher, it is NOT a biography. It only gives the appearance of being biographical. The title subjects only make their (brief) appearance in chapter three. Then it's on to the real business - math. I was expecting a very cool, parallel story of how the 19th century Boole foreshadowed the brilliant 20th century Shannon, how there were parallels in their lives, how coincidences piled up, how hints from one resulted in achievements in the other - how Shannon cashed in on what Boole couldn't even imagine from his own work. How Shannon redeemed Boole.

There's none of it.

This is a book on electrical circuit design, by a professor of electrical engineering and mathematics. It is a textbook for the enthusiastic student entering the field. Nahin is clearly far more at ease in formulas than in narrative. The ubiquitous exclamation points and overuse of italics are vivid testament to that. The biography reader will be lost after the first formula is built. This book is about the math, not the people.

But as such, there is nothing wrong with this book. It is clear, organized, inviting, and easy to digest if you are interested in the subject matter. But let's be clear - the subject matter is circuit design, not Boole and Shannon. After chapter three, Boole barely gets mentioned at all, while Shannon pops up here and there because of a relevant paper (and the occasional joke). But these appearances are as scientific references, not biographical events or descriptions.

Ironically, Nahin ends the book with the story of The Language Clarifier, a black box used to interpret legalese so that mere mortals could comprehend what the fatheads (his term) had written. If only the publishers had been required to use it, this book might not be so misleading.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wanted to learn more about how Shannon conceived his Channel Capacity concept and equation. Nahin may understand this, but he certainly didn't explain it in his book. I also wanted to learn something about the relative contributions that Shannon and Nyquist made to the argument that analog data can be perfectly represented by digital samples. I was disappointed here, as well. Nahin is probably an excellent teacher of digital circuit design. He covers Boole's not-so-well-known contributions to math pretty well. But, don't buy this book if you mainly want to understand the deep significance of Shannon's early work.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book interesting and easy to read. It is written in a sort of drive by, essay style. There are many noteworthy (but sort of random) facts I did not know in this book. I checked it out of my local library, and I enjoyed reading it, but I was not looking for anything other than entertainment (infotainment?). I would not own it, however, because it warrants only one reading. It does not present anything in enough detail to justify buying it. It does not really live up to its title, either, but is more of a smattering of tidbits, facts, and reminiscences than a focused treatise on the 'creation of the information age' as it purports to be. Never mind that it is not a biography by any stretch. Still, I think the book would be fun (if you hang out with mathematicians, engineers, or programmers) as a conversation starter, or a list of topics to discuss. It is definitely entertaining, but probably not so much to non-techies.

Should you trust a book about logic when itself contains muddled reasoning? I found one section of this book where the author apparently did not read what he wrote. In section 8.1 p 139 ff the author is explaining 'states' with the classic example problem of the two adults and two children on one side of a river, with a boat that holds only one adult or two children, the problem being how to get everyone over to the other side when anyone can row. Fair enough, he shows 10 'states' where everyone ends up safely on the other side of the river.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Paul Nahin's book, "The Logician and the Engineer," is deficient
in several ways.

Its first deficiency is that Nahin has relatively little to say
about the putative subjects of his book, filling in with a
congeries of topics of interest to himself. In spite of the
book's sub-title -- "How George Boole and Claude Shannon Created
the Information Age" -- Boole and Shannon are minor actors in
this book. Of its more than 220 pages, one 24-page chapter
provides brief biographies of Boole and Shannon, and another
chapter of the same length discusses Boolean algebra. The bulk of
the book, however, is given over to digital circuit-design,
probability, Turing machines, logic puzzles, and speculations
about future computers.

The reader gets a warning of strange things to come in Chapter 1,
entitled "What You Need to Know to Read This Book." The chapter
focuses heavily, and weirdly, on potentiometers, ending with a
demonstration of the parabolic shape of the resistance-function
of two ganged potentiometers. Oddly for an electrical engineer,
Nahin states that the term "rheostat" is "a rather old-fashioned
word" for a potentiometer. Potentiometers and rheostats are
actually quite different devices. Although both are three-
terminal variable resistors, a potentiometer is a voltage-divider
that uses all three terminals, whereas a rheostat uses two
terminals (the slider and one other terminal) to control current
by connecting a variable resistance in series with the load.

A second deficiency of this book is its pervasive carelessness.
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