The Science of Information: From Language to Black Holes

Course No. 1301
Professor Benjamin Schumacher, Ph.D.
Kenyon College
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94% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 1301
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Explore what information is, how it is measured, and how it led to the concept of the bit - the basic unit of information.
  • numbers Learn how to design a simple electronic circuit that performs basic mathematical calculations.
  • numbers Investigate the history of cryptography starting with the simple cipher used by Julius Caesar.
  • numbers Learn how a feature of the quantum world called entanglement is the key to an unbreakable code
  • numbers Unravel the super-secure Enigma code system used by the Germans during World War II.

Course Overview

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. Never before have we had access to such vast quantities of data of every kind. 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. It is the key that unites fields as different as linguistics, cryptography, neuroscience, genetics, economics, and quantum mechanics. And the fact that information bears no necessary connection to meaning makes it a profound puzzle that people with a passion for philosophy have pondered for centuries.

Little wonder that an entirely new science has arisen that is devoted to deepening our understanding of information and our ability to use it. Called information theory, this field has been responsible for path-breaking insights such as the following:

  • What is information? In 1948, mathematician Claude Shannon boldly captured the essence of information with a definition that doesn’t invoke abstract concepts such as meaning or knowledge. In Shannon’s revolutionary view, information is simply the ability to distinguish reliably among possible alternatives.

  • The bit: Atomic theory has the atom. Information theory has the bit: the basic unit of information. Proposed by Shannon’s colleague at Bell Labs, John Tukey, bit stands for “binary digit”—0 or 1 in binary notation, which can be implemented with a simple on/off switch. Everything from books to black holes can be measured in bits.

  • Redundancy: Redundancy in information may seem like mere inefficiency, but it is a crucial feature of information of all types, including languages and DNA, since it provides built-in error correction for mistakes and noise. Redundancy is also the key to breaking secret codes.

Building on these and other fundamental principles, information theory spawned the digital revolution of today, just as the discoveries of Galileo and Newton laid the foundation for the scientific revolution four centuries ago. Technologies for computing, telecommunication, and encryption are now common, and it’s easy to forget that these powerful technologies and techniques had their own Galileos and Newtons.

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.

Professor Schumacher introduces the essential mathematical ideas that govern the subject—concepts that can be understood by anyone with a background in high school math. But it is not necessary to follow the equations to appreciate the remarkable story that Dr. Schumacher tells.

A New View of Reality

Clearly, information has been around a long time. In human terms, language, writing, art, music, and mathematics are perfect examples; so are Morse code, Mendelian genetics, and radio signals—all originating 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. The Science of Information takes you on this stimulating intellectual journey, in which some of the key figures include:

  • Claude Shannon: Shannon plays a key role throughout the course as the dominant figure in the early decades of information theory, making major contributions in computer science, cryptography, genetics, and other areas. His crucial 1948 paper was the “shot heard” round the world” for the information revolution.

  • Alan Turing: The genius behind the decryption of the Nazi Enigma code during World War II, Turing invented the principle of the modern digital computer, and he showed the inherent limitation of all computers by showing that the notorious “halting problem” was fundamentally unsolvable.

  • John A. Wheeler: One of the greatest physicists of the 20th century, Wheeler had a passion for the most fundamental questions of science, which led him to conceive the famous slogan, “It from bit,” meaning that all of physical reality emerges from information. He was also Professor Schumacher’s mentor.

In addition, you study the contributions of other pioneers, such as John Kelly, who used information theory to devise an influential strategy for betting and investing; David Huffman, who blazed the trail in data compression, now used in formats such as JPEG and MP3; and Gregory Chaitin, who pursued computer algorithms for information theory, hypothesizing a celebrated yet uncomputable number called Omega. You also explore the pivotal contributions of pre-20th-century thinkers including Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, Samuel F. B. Morse, and Joseph Fourier.

The Laws of Information at Work

With lucid explanations and imaginative graphics, Professor Schumacher shows you the world through an extraordinary set of lenses. “If we wear our information-colored glasses,” he says, “we will see the laws of information at work all around us, in a hundred different ways.” The course illustrates this with examples such as:

  • Money: Today most money exists as electronic account data. But even in ancient times, money was a record-keeping device—in other words, information. Precious metal coins had a cryptographic function: to make it hard to counterfeit messages of economic agreement and obligation.

  • Privacy: The search for guaranteed privacy has only one refuge—the quantum realm. Professor Schumacher explains how the only perfectly secure communications take place between pairs of entangled quantum particles called qubits (a term he coined). Such systems are now in use.

  • Games: The parlor game 20 Questions obviously involves the exchange of information. But why is the number of questions 20? Why not 10 or 30? The answer has to do with the connection between entropy and information—in this case, the total number of possible solutions to the game.

Dr. Schumacher also shows you how information theory can provide answers to profound scientific questions. What is the information content of the genome? The human brain? A black hole? The universe? Time and again, the concepts and laws of information reveal breathtaking insights into the workings of nature, even as they lay the foundation of astounding new technologies.

One final example: 12 billion miles from Earth, a spacecraft built with 1970s technology is racing through interstellar space, never to return. From that distance, the sun is a very bright star and Earth is a pale blue dot. Voyager 1’s radio transmitter is about as strong as a cell phone tower on Earth, which typically can’t reach phones more than a few miles away. Yet we continue, to this day, to receive data from Voyager. How is that possible? The Science of Information explains this amazing feat, along with so much more.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    The Transformability of Information
    What is information? Explore the surprising answer of American mathematician Claude Shannon, who concluded that information is the ability to distinguish reliably among possible alternatives. Consider why this idea was so revolutionary, and see how it led to the concept of the bit - the basic unit of information. x
  • 2
    Computation and Logic Gates
    Accompany the young Claude Shannon to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where in 1937 he submitted a master's thesis proving that Boolean algebra could be used to simplify the unwieldy analog computing devices of the day. Drawing on Shannon's ideas, learn how to design a simple electronic circuit that performs basic mathematical calculations. x
  • 3
    Measuring Information
    How is information measured and how is it encoded most efficiently? Get acquainted with a subtle but powerful quantity that is vital to the science of information: entropy. Measuring information in terms of entropy sheds light on everything from password security to efficient binary codes to how to design a good guessing game. x
  • 4
    Entropy and the Average Surprise
    Intuition says we measure information by looking at the length of a message. But Shannon's information theory starts with something more fundamental: how surprising is the message? Through illuminating examples, discover that entropy provides a measure of the average surprise. x
  • 5
    Data Compression and Prefix-Free Codes
    Probe the link between entropy and coding. In the process, encounter Shannon's first fundamental theorem, which specifies how far information can be squeezed in a binary code, serving as the basis for data compression. See how this works with a text such as Conan Doyle's The Return of Sherlock Holmes. x
  • 6
    Encoding Images and Sounds
    Learn how some data can be compressed beyond the minimum amount of information required by the entropy of the source. Typically used for images, music, and video, these techniques drastically reduce the size of a file without significant loss of quality. See how this works in the MP3, JPEG, and MPEG formats. x
  • 7
    Noise and Channel Capacity
    One of the key issues in information theory is noise: the message received may not convey everything about the message sent. Discover Shannon's second fundamental theorem, which proves that error correction is possible and can be built into a message with only a modest slowdown in transmission rate. x
  • 8
    Error-Correcting Codes
    Dig into different techniques for error correction. Start with a game called word golf, which demonstrates the perils of mistaking one letter for another and how to guard against it. Then graduate to approaches used for correcting errors in computer operating systems, CDs, and data transmissions from the Voyager spacecraft. x
  • 9
    Signals and Bandwidth
    Twelve billion miles from Earth, the Voyager spacecraft is sending back data with just a 20-watt transmitter. Make sense of this amazing feat by delving into the details of the Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem, signal-to-noise ratio, and bandwidth - concepts that apply to many types of communication. x
  • 10
    Cryptography and Key Entropy
    The science of information is also the science of secrets. Investigate the history of cryptography starting with the simple cipher used by Julius Caesar. See how entropy is a useful measure of the security of an encryption key, and follow the deciphering strategies that cracked early codes. x
  • 11
    Cryptanalysis and Unraveling the Enigma
    Unravel the analysis that broke the super-secure Enigma code system used by the Germans during World War II. Led by British mathematician Alan Turing, the code breakers had to repeat their feat every day throughout the war. Also examine Claude Shannon's revolutionary views on the nature of secrecy. x
  • 12
    Unbreakable Codes and Public Keys
    The one-time pad may be in principle unbreakable, but consider the common mistakes that make this code system vulnerable. Focus on the Venona project that deciphered Soviet intelligence messages encrypted with one-time pads. Close with the mathematics behind public key cryptography, which makes modern transactions secure - for now. x
  • 13
    What Genetic Information Can Do
    Learn how DNA and RNA serve as the digital medium for genetic information. Also see how shared features of different life forms allow us to trace our origins back to an organism known as LUCA - the last universal common ancestor - which lived 3.5 to 4 billion years ago. x
  • 14
    Life's Origins and DNA Computing
    DNA, RNA, and the protein molecules they assemble are so interdependent that it's hard to picture how life got started in the first place. Survey a selection of intriguing theories, including the view that genetic information in living cells results from eons of natural computation. x
  • 15
    Neural Codes in the Brain
    Study the workings of our innermost information system: the brain. Take both top-down and bottom-up approaches, focusing on the world of perception, experience, and external behavior on the one hand versus the intricacies of neuron activity on the other. Then estimate the total information capacity of the brain. x
  • 16
    Entropy and Microstate Information
    Return to the concept of entropy, tracing its origin to thermodynamics, the branch of science dealing with heat. Discover that here the laws of nature and information meet. Understand the influential second law of thermodynamics, and conduct a famous thought experiment called Maxwell's demon. x
  • 17
    Erasure Cost and Reversible Computing
    Maxwell's demon has startling implications for the push toward ever-faster computers. Probe the connection between the second law of thermodynamics and the erasure of information, which turns out to be a practical barrier to computer processing speed. Learn how computer scientists deal with the demon. x
  • 18
    Horse Races and Stock Markets
    One of Claude Shannon's colleagues at Bell Labs was the brilliant scientist and brash Texan John Kelly. Explore Kelly's insight that information is the advantage we have in betting on possible alternatives. Apply his celebrated log-optimal strategy to horse racing and stock trading. x
  • 19
    Turing Machines and Algorithmic Information
    Contrast Shannon's code- and communication-based approach to information with a new, algorithmic way of thinking about the problem in terms of descriptions and computations. See how this idea relates to Alan Turing's theoretical universal computing machine, which underlies the operation of all digital computers. x
  • 20
    Uncomputable Functions and Incompleteness
    Algorithmic information is plagued by a strange impossibility that shakes the very foundations of logic and mathematics. Investigate this drama in four acts, starting with a famous conundrum called the Berry Paradox and including Turing's surprising proof that no single computer program can determine whether other programs will ever halt. x
  • 21
    Qubits and Quantum Information
    Enter the quantum realm to see how this revolutionary branch of physics is transforming the science of information. Begin with the double-slit experiment, which pinpoints the bizarre behavior that makes quantum information so different. Work your way toward a concept that seems positively magical: the quantum computer. x
  • 22
    Quantum Cryptography via Entanglement
    Learn how a feature of the quantum world called entanglement is the key to an unbreakable code. Review the counterintuitive rules of entanglement. Then play a game based on The Newlywed Game that illustrates the monogamy of entanglement. This is the principle underlying quantum cryptography. x
  • 23
    It from Bit: Physics from Information
    Physicist John A. Wheeler's phrase "It from bit" makes a profound point about the connection between reality and information. Follow this idea into a black hole to investigate the status of information in a place of unlimited density. Also explore the information content of the entire universe! x
  • 24
    The Meaning of Information
    Survey the phenomenon of information from pre-history to the projected far future, focusing on the special problem of anti-cryptography - designing an understandable message for future humans or alien civilizations. Close by revisiting Shannon's original definition of information and ask, What does the theory of information leave out?"" x

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  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 354-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 354-page printed course guidebook
  • Key Equations in the Science of Information
  • Suggested Reading
  • Questions to Consider

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Your professor

Benjamin Schumacher

About Your Professor

Benjamin Schumacher, Ph.D.
Kenyon College
Dr. Benjamin Schumacher is Professor of Physics at Kenyon College, where he has taught for 20 years. He received his Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from The University of Texas at Austin in 1990. Professor Schumacher is the author of numerous scientific papers and two books, including Physics in Spacetime: An Introduction to Special Relativity. As one of the founders of quantum information theory, he introduced the term qubit,...
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The Science of Information: From Language to Black Holes is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 55.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of Great Courses best! I just finished watching The Science of Information. It is a tour de force. I actually think I may watch it all through again. This is Prof. Schumacher's masterpiece to date. Physics, biology, cosmology, math, economics, ... remarkable scope.
Date published: 2018-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Deep science Benjamin Schumacher is a great physicist and a great teacher. I've already studied his previous great courses "Quantum Mechanics" and "the Physics of the impossible " . He is a clear mind, and an extraordinary communicator,. I recommend all his courses to people who are interested in the frontiers of physics and more generally in the domains of extreme frontiers.of modern science.
Date published: 2018-04-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Challenging, but Interesting This is the third course I've watched by Professor Schumacher, and it was one in a Great Courses "bundle"--not one that I would have ordered by itself, if given the choice. But sometimes a bundle ends up cheaper than just one course within it, which was the case here. I didn't think I'd ever watch this series (4 discs, 12 hours of lecture) yet I just did. If you are trying to understand every bit of information (pun intended) that he's trying to convey here, you'd better have a very strong undergraduate or some grad background in math and physics. You'll learn quickly how technical it can get, in lecture two where he describes logic gates (essential to computers). My eyes were soon glazing over. Clearly this is the sort of field I never would have wanted as a career. A second area where some listeners may start getting impatient is with the many equations using logarithms. Fortunately I understand the concept--I just never make use of them. Here's an epitome of his teaching style and how it may dismay someone who struggles with math and science. In one lecture on disc 3 he started discussing how information theory informed academic work on gambling strategies and investment strategies, like in stock markets. He tries starting with the very simplest of examples: someone wants to bet on a horse. The bookie is some charitable figure who isn't even working for profit, so the odds are perfectly aligned with the perceptions of each horse's chance to win--plus this is only a two-horse race! So he names the horses: X and Y. Really? This is the friendliest you could start the example? Not even initially call them "Xavier" and "Yellow Streak"? Oh my! Yes, horses named X and Y is about as folksy as he gets. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to JUST KEEP LISTENING. Even if you don't really understand logarithms, even if the equations look meaningless to you and even if a few half hours seem hopelessly boring (I'm talking about YOU, qubits) there is an impressive amount of..uh....information, about information theory conveyed here. You'll see it connecting a very wide range of ideas: logic, computer processing, fundamental mathematical theories, the relationship between scientific theories and the real world, codes and code-cracking, data compression to produce CDs and DVDs and Blu-Rays of manageable sizes, quantum mechanics, the relationship between entropy and information, yes and a little bit about black holes too. Along the way there are some interesting stories about some of the giants in these fields--some of whom I did not know of before hearing the course. I'm glad I went through it (or about 91% of it). Lastly I think he only seems to talk fast because so much of the information he's conveying is new to the listener. He actually talks at a quite reasonable speed, but when everything he's saying is unfamiliar it sounds fast (like a foreign language that you barely understand). For most people, this is going to be about the math. If you don't focus on the parts that seem obscure and go with the flow, eventually you'll get to a "punch line" or two that you can take away from that lecture. There's the good and the bad: a lot of information about an interesting and wide-ranging subject. Some of it is fairly technical.
Date published: 2018-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Tribute to Shannon and Much More I viewed this entire course this past spring. My background is in telecommunications and the material covered in this course filled in historical and conceptual gaps I did not know I had. I truly enjoyed it, learned much from it, and it rekindled my desire to continue studying topics in related fields. I am currently busy learning Data Science topics to help me with my telecommunications and information science related work. Thanks very much.
Date published: 2017-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course in a new area for me I only purchased this course a few weeks ago and have not completed it yet. I am, to date, extremely pleased and happy that i made the purchase. Ben Schumacher continues to make topics interesting, exciting and fun to watch.
Date published: 2017-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting subject I really enjoyed this course. It covered a lot of information in this relatively new area, at times quite quickly, but I looked at it as an overview of the subject, and would not need to fully understand all aspects. Adequate references were provided for those that wanted to delve deeper into various aspects of it, and the guidebook is very useful.
Date published: 2017-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I watched the entire video just after reading James Gleick's beautifully written book on the subject - "Information," and I am happy to report that the video not only elucidated the content of that book, but added a whole lot more to what I knew before. The professor knew his subject intimately and taught it with such skill that I too came away understanding it intimately also, at least as a layman.
Date published: 2017-05-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very informative course covering a new science The course is very well put together, and very informative about a relatively new area of investigation. It does get into some complex topics, which may make it relatively inaccessible to those without a science background. There is much useful information in the course, however, and even without following all the mathematics much can be learned.
Date published: 2017-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Every Lecture was Thought Provoking This was a course that greatly stimulated my thinking. The professor took a very complex subject and broke it down into practical, solid knowledge bytes. The video format is excellent because the professor used many great visuals to enhance understanding. I appreciated the clear descriptions of important concepts and how the professor tied various discoveries and theories to the subject matter. I was inspired to read many articles and research the topics after the lectures. This is a fantastic course.
Date published: 2017-05-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A little disjointed The material is fairly well presented but at times seems disjointed as the instructor is trying to satisfy both the technically adept and those who are not. He does this by glossing over what at times is the meat of the subject matter. See Bruce Edwards videos for how to do this in a more coherent manner
Date published: 2017-04-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great presentation. Good inclusion of history of the underlying science.
Date published: 2017-03-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Excellent Presentation of Uninteresting Material I've purchased other courses taught by Benjamin Schumacher and he continues to I've purchased several courses taught by Benjamin Schumacher and he continues be at the top of his game when it comes to being an excellent Great Courses instructor. His presentation skills are excellent and the graphs and audio/visual materials perfectly compliment the material. I was particularly impressed with the course instruction book which again perfectly complimented the visual material and includes terminology sections, nice graphics, and a complete bibliography. The only thing that Schumacher could not do is hold my attention. This is a personal observation based on my interests and is not a reflection on the quality of the material. I just could not get interested in the subject. The material seems to be one of those esoteric topics that is of value only to those who are interested in the information science fields of knowledge transmission and security. There was little I could take away from this course with the exception of the fact that computer passwords of 4 words (not letters) are the most secure from cyber attacks and thievery. And that is not enough for me to keep me this course in my video library.
Date published: 2017-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Ben's Best Course I've watched thee of Ben's courses. This is by far his best. Fast moving, some math but simple concepts, he brings to life the early days and discoveries in information science. I liked his treatment of spies and biology, not something you expect from a physicist. This subject is his field. It shows!
Date published: 2017-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! The is an excellent course. A wealth of information with deep insights and motivating inspirations. Congratulations to Prof. Ben Schumacher for his outstanding talents and encyclopedic knowledge!
Date published: 2017-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Important, informative, and delightful The science of information relates to many fields and yet is still largely unknown to the general public. This excellent introduction reviews the science of information in a surprising variety of forms, from cryptography to genetics, neural networks in the brain, computers, black holes, and quantum dynamics. It is thrilling. The instructor, Professor Benjamin Schumacher, is a pioneer in the field in his own right, giving the course a sort of "learning Relativity from Einstein" appeal. One glitch is the second lesson, which reviews the role of logarithms in information theory. That was a hard slog, but Professor Schumacher's sheer pleasure in reviewing the math helps lighten the load. If you make it past lesson two, the rest is fascinating, even revelatory. This is not just for people interested in physics but for everyone who wants an introduction to one of today's foundational fields. I'm very glad I purchased it, and the science of information is now so central that I consider it a basic course everyone should take. It's also made me want to explore other courses taught by Professor Schumacher. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2016-12-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Please lose the closed captioning He covers a lot and at times I thought less would have been better. Once again I have been distracted by the "subtitles" at the bottom which sometimes cover up graphics made for the course. There are also numerous mistakes in these which is ironic given this is a teaching course.
Date published: 2016-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It Tastes Like Not Enough My only complaint with this course is that it is not long enough to go deeper into some areas and provide more explanation of others. For those faults I will not take away stars. Dine at a fabulous restaurant. Be served the most delicious food. Then leave the table wanting more! Can't blame the chef. I just love to eat. I loved this course. Schumacher's style is enjoyable and at just about the right intensity. If I have a criticism, when math is involved, Schumacher tends to assume we get it and he will move through calculations too quickly. I always have to go back and review...but that's ok. I prefer that to skipping the math as many courses do. There could be more material. We found ourselves in the land of entropy fairly early into the class. A better definition of information and why entropy is so key to understanding information would have been helpful. I was able to put the pieces together and so will you but I think you'll agree that a few more lectures would have helped. Of particular interest to me was the section on black holes. That was far too short. I still am pondering the holographic principle. Then again, who isn't? So then, is information permanently lost in a black hole? Does that violate the conservation of information? I want more bits on that subject! Now for the warning! This is a great class. I gave it 5 stars. But it's not a super easy class. It's not as difficult as quantum mechanics but it's not a gardening class. So be prepared for some tough going if you have no background in physics. If you like a challenge, you'll love it. If you want an easy, sort of NPR type science thing with cool graphics and not a very deep venture, you might be stressed by this class. If you like to learn and love a challenge, you'll like this course. The science of information is very important today and getting more important all the time. Information is the most valuable commodity on the planet today. Think about that and then go for it! Finally, I recommend DVD or streaming. I think much would be lost in audio only. That statement made me want to calculate the "surprise" of information delivered by video vs. audio. See, it makes you think like that. There would be great entropy and noise around audio. Hum. I'll have to think about that. Thank for reading. Let me know what you think.
Date published: 2016-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Indispensable I'm about 70% done with the course and I have already learned so much. This is one of those courses that answers many questions I had for years. It's amazing how much the history of this subject is relevant to our technical world today. The instructor speaks well and is easily understood. The examples he provides are useful and interesting. I am so happy I purchased this course. I'm also pleased I can watch it on my ROKU video streaming device and don't need to play the DVDs if I don't want too. One detractor for me was my personal lack of Algebra knowledge. It's been a long time since I took College Algebra and a refresher would be recommended. Also bring a note pad and pen to save your thoughts as you learn. BUY THIS ONE!
Date published: 2016-08-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Impressive Introduction To Information Science A wide ranging view of Information Science with an exceptionally clear presentation. A useful first step into the field of Information Science.
Date published: 2016-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Winner As a professional educator, I have a keen appreciation for how well a fellow educator performs in conveying the material in his or her course. Professor Schumacher is one of the best active today. Physics is a broad field, ranging from the subatomic to the universe-wide scale. Schumacher is equally at home across that broad swath, as evidenced by the different topics he tackles in The Great Courses. If I were younger, I would enroll in Kenyon College just so I could take every course he teaches there. In this course, as in others he has taught, Schumacher ties together seemingly disparate areas of study and brings out the underlying connections, providing a much richer appreciation of the subject. He discusses the thinkers who pioneered the subject and shows how their insights moved the field forward, culminating in the view we have today.
Date published: 2016-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it I work in IT. This is giving me a fantasic insight into the theoretical and historical underpinnings of my field. I am only half way through but It won't take me long as I am watching 2 to 3 at a go. The instructor is fantastic.
Date published: 2016-07-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Information theory Not worth the trouble. Professor spent three lectures making a relatively simple concept of information channels and error correction almost incomprehensible. This is an important subject with some subtle ideas but this series of lectures is definitely not worth the time.
Date published: 2016-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another excellent course Professor Schumacher is one of the best professors available at The Great Courses. I own 3 other courses taught by him and they are all excellent. I’ve yet to finish one without finding another hole to fill in my scientific education. That’s what you want from a course in my opinion. A challenging topic in Professor Schumacher’s other courses is entropy. I have seen entropy taught in various ways ranging from too simplistic to ridiculous. This course presents the best way I have seen of teaching that topic. It helped me fill in the details I didn’t’ understand from Professor Schumacher’s other courses. A couple of standout lectures for me in this course are Entropy and Microstate Information and Algorithmic Information. I highly recommend this course, but come ready to think!
Date published: 2016-05-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a bargain! (sale price) I don't come to TGC for confirmation of what I already know. I come here to learn something new. Ben Schumacher's latest course on information is packed to the brim with it! As with his other courses, I find I learn even more the second and third times through than the first. That means I didn't get it all the first time through, but I can say that about any great buffet and that doesn't make it less in value. Quite the contrary! And yet there is nothing here that the typical life long learner can't grasp with a little repetition. And use that guidebook (yes, even if you have the downloadable one). I wear mine ragged (dog eared, highlighted, scribbled notes, etc.), all the things your librarian forbid you to do. I expect to do it all again in 3 months! It gets better every time!
Date published: 2016-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent I've been waiting for awhile for a Great Courses course on information theory. This seems to be just what I've been waiting for. I'm only a few lectures in and I'm already giving it five stars. I really like Professor Schumacher, I have a couple of his other courses. I like that that there is just enough math to keep me interested and a bit challenged, but not so heavy that I get lost. It will take a couple of viewing, tho, I still have problems with the whole entropy thing. Something I put a lot of value on is the quality of the course guide book. This one is terrific. In fact, it's almost a textbook in and of itself. And a glossary!
Date published: 2016-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is really a great course I love this course. I'm on my second viewing, and it is better the second time, if that were possible. The subject matter is totally compelling, and it is beautifully presented. The professor is outstanding, as good as any I've seen with the Teaching Company. He manages to not only make the subject interesting, but exciting. I have rarely learned so much in a Great Course. Even though the material is complicated, Dr. Schumacher almost never resorts to "and it turns out". He usually manages to explain what are often difficult concepts in understandable ways. I would give this course a ten if that were possible.
Date published: 2016-03-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting but challenging presentation This is an interesting and comprehensive presentation on a subject that I didn't even realize was a separate field of study until watching this course. The field of information science relates to a remarkable range of other fields, and as it turned out, this course fit in well with several others I have viewed from the Great Courses. Professor Schumacher has an animated and engaging style that will never leave you bored (although I hate to admit that I got lost a few times). That's the good news. The not so good news is that he goes rather fast, especially when dealing with the math. It would help if he would take the time to briefly review concepts that were presented in earlier lectures when they come up again. As commented on by another reviewer, this would make the whole course hang together better, rather than being a series of somewhat isolated lectures. I think that those of us who have been out of school for a while would appreciate more explanation of the math, which involves logarithms and probability theory. in summary, an excellent course, but not an easy one to get through. By the way, if you do get discouraged, don't give up before the final lecture, which i thought was the best.
Date published: 2016-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Discover Information & Translation Efficiency This is an excellent course for those seeking another dimension in theoretical physics based on information and efficiency using concepts of thermodynamics --- 2nd law in particular . There are many examples shared throughout the course that provide of how information theory has been used in data compression, cryptography, the value of money, and implications for quantum computing / cryptography. These are very practical concepts but have far reaching implications beyond electronics / digital transmissions. Additionally, the 23rd lecture, Wheeler's "It from Bit", was an excellent survey of reconciling information from the finite & the infinite....where information should reconcile the world of physics (math) and the physical manifestation of information (M)...from the cosmos to the quantum. This course is a great way to get your mind around the continuity of information / meaning despite the medium using discrete mathematics and entropy.
Date published: 2016-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Finally Starting to Understand Entropy The Thermodynamics course and several of the astrophysics related courses from The Great Company discuss the concept of entropy and the second laws of thermodynamics. The second law states that entropy cannot decrease but I was still not clear on exactly what was entropy. Now, because of this course, I have a much better understanding of the concept of entropy. In the first half of this course, Professor Schumacher explains entropy in terms of terms of information processing and communications such as logic gates, data compression, encoding, bandwidth, capacity, noise, error correction, cryptography, etc. For more than four decades, I have been applying these information processing and communications concepts into the development of data process and telecommunications systems. However, until this course, I was not aware how these concepts related to entropy. When Professor Schumacher explained the relationship of entropy to these concepts which I am very familiar with, I was finally able to grasp the concept of entropy. In the second half of this course, Professor Schumacher applies the teachings of the first half of the course to biology, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, and black holes. Armed with the knowledge gained in the first half of the course, I have finally started getting an understanding of what entropy means in these other areas. In addition to explaining the concepts, this course also includes valuable historical information about how discoveries where made, the individuals who made these discoveries, how the principles were developed, and how the principles were revised as new information was learned in later years or centuries. The development of this knowledge base is a long and slow process that spans decades and centuries. The audio visual aspects of this course are very good and help explain the principles being presented. I highly recommend this course to learn about both information theory and the principle of entropy.
Date published: 2016-02-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Information While I was initially familiar with almost all the physical concepts presented, I was fascinated, enthralled, by how these were described by similar mathematical concepts and linked by similar mathematical laws. This unification by mathematics presented to me the concept of the universe of information. However, I am one of those who believe in the existence of an objective universe, rather than a universe created by thinking about it or its information, as one of the lectures "appears" to present. The presentation is very good, both voice and visual; the lecturer is enjoyable.
Date published: 2016-02-10
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