book reviews

The science of information

"Information: The New Language of Science" by Hans Christian von Baeyer.

I recently wrote about Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver’s book “The Mathematical Theory of Communication” and its insights into the idea of measuring information. I had planned to describe this book as an introduction to a review of a more recent, more easily digestible book, Information: The New Language of Science by Hans Christian von Baeyer, but decided to write separate entries on the two books.

Measuring information

A short but dense classic offers some solid background.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of information as something quantifiable. When William Strunk (of Strunk and White fame) wrote omit needless words, and when George Orwell wrote “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out” in Politics and the English Language, they affirmed that good writing packs more information into fewer words (or syllables, or even letters—in the same essay, Orwell wrote “ Never use a long word where a short one will do”)…

After following Dave Beckett’s pointer to Stefano Mazzocchi essay On the Quality of Metadata last week, I remembered that while we have people like Stefano and Bruce D’Arcus among us with stronger backgrounds in more classical approaches to metadata, most geeks think that technology from ten years ago is ancient history. I’d like to recommend two books I’ve read recently for the historical background they provide on the creation, organization, and use of metadata to…