Shannon is not exactly a household name. He never won a Nobel Prize, and he wasn’t a celebrity like Albert Einstein or Richard Feynman, either before or after his death in 2001. But more than 70 years ago, in a single groundbreaking paper, he laid the foundation for the entire communication infrastructure underlying the modern information age.
Saturday, December 26th, 2020
Tuesday, February 11th, 2020
Emergence and complex systems, explained with interactive diagrams.
Monday, May 27th, 2019
Before leading the software project that put men on the moon, Margaret Hamilton worked on the equations that led to chaos theory, followed by Mount Holyoke graduate, Ellen Fetter.
Thursday, May 17th, 2018
Robin Sloan smushes the video game Fortnite Battle Royale together with Liu Cixin’s Three Body Problem trilogy and produces a perfect example of game theory, cooperation, and the prisoner’s dilemma.
Based on my experiments in the laboratory of Fortnite, I think Liu Cixin is wrong. Or at least, he’s not entirely right. Fortnite is more Dark Forest theory than not, and maybe that’s true of the universe, too. But sometimes, we have a lever against the vise of game theory, and in this case, it is a single bit of communication. I mean “bit” in the programmer’s sense: a flag with a designated meaning. Nothing more. My heart emote didn’t make Fortnite cuddly and collaborative, but it did allow me to communicate: “Hold up. Let’s do this a different way.”
Thursday, May 3rd, 2018
The latest explainer/game from Nicky Case is an absolutely brilliant interactive piece on small world networks.
Wednesday, February 28th, 2018
Go deep, deep down the rabbit hole of Rob’s brain in all its colourful glory. Seriously, this is simultaneously a great write-up of how he came up with his site’s lovely colour scheme(s), and it’s a terrific primer on colour theory and why the HSL value in CSS is so, so wonderful!
Sunday, February 11th, 2018
In this terrific essay by Marina Benjamin on the scientific and mathematical quest for ever-more dimensions, she offers this lovely insight into the mind-altering effects that the art of Giotto and Uccello must’ve had on their medieval audience:
By consciously exploring geometric principles, these painters gradually learned how to construct images of objects in three-dimensional space. In the process, they reprogrammed European minds to see space in a Euclidean fashion.
In a very literal fashion, perspectival representation was a form of virtual reality that, like today’s VR games, aimed to give viewers the illusion that they had been transported into geometrically coherent and psychologically convincing other worlds.
Thursday, December 21st, 2017
Monday, November 20th, 2017
The transcript of a presentation on the intersection of ethics and accessibility.
Tuesday, September 5th, 2017
Of course, information existed before Shannon, just as objects had inertia before Newton. But before Shannon, there was precious little sense of information as an idea, a measurable quantity, an object fitted out for hard science. Before Shannon, information was a telegram, a photograph, a paragraph, a song. After Shannon, information was entirely abstracted into bits. The sender no longer mattered, the intent no longer mattered, the medium no longer mattered, not even the meaning mattered: A phone conversation, a snatch of Morse telegraphy, a page from a detective novel were all brought under a common code. Just as geometers subjected a circle in the sand and the disk of the sun to the same laws, and as physicists subjected the sway of a pendulum and the orbits of the planets to the same laws, Claude Shannon made our world possible by getting at the essence of information.
Monday, July 31st, 2017
Such a great primer on game theory—well worth half an hour of your time.
Thursday, May 11th, 2017
This is a really intriguing book that combines design theory and programming—learn about contrast, colour, and shapes, with each lesson supported by code examples.
It’s still a work in progress but the whole thing is online for free. Yay for web books!
Sunday, June 29th, 2014
A short film about Claude Shannon and Information Theory — not exactly as in-depth as James Gleick’s The Information, but it does a nice job of encapsulating the fundamental idea.
Monday, July 29th, 2013
I like this theory!
Monday, October 4th, 2010
Responding to Malcolm Gladwell's recent piece in the New Yorker, Jonah Lehrer argues that the strength of weak ties *does* extend to social activism.
Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
This looks like being a thoroughly excellent event at The Royal Society, featuring Tim Berners-Lee and Albert-Laszlo Barabasi.
Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010
An extremely addictive bit of fun with small world network theory as applied to music.
Thursday, September 17th, 2009
Six degrees of separation as applied to Wikipedia articles. Read on to find the Kevin Bacon of Wikipedia pages.
Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
An examination of behavioural contagion in social networks.
Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
It turns out that the brain is a scale-free small-world network in a state of self-organised criticality. Just like the internet.