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information theory

Introduction

information theory or communication theory, mathematical theory formulated principally by the American scientist Claude E. Shannon to explain aspects and problems of information and communication. While the theory is not specific in all respects, it proves the existence of optimum coding schemes without showing how to find them. For example, it succeeds remarkably in outlining the engineering requirements of communication systems and the limitations of such systems.

In information theory, the term information is used in a special sense; it is a measure of the freedom of choice with which a message is selected from the set of all possible messages. Information is thus distinct from meaning, since it is entirely possible for a string of nonsense words and a meaningful sentence to be equivalent with respect to information content.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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