Re: "minimum separabile" and the memetic code

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sun 02 Feb 2003 - 18:32:44 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: "minimum separabile" and the memetic code"

    At 08:27 AM 02/02/03 -0800, you wrote:

    >The information contained in a statue or painting or much of anything else
    >is not measured in the numbert of atoms it contains.

    Sure it can be. Not that it is all that useful, but you could create an exact atomic copy if you knew the kind and placement of every atom. (And had a nanofabrication device.)

    >You can't say a big statue contains more information than a small
    >statue. Especially if one is a copy of the other.

    It certainly does. A small copy of a large statue could be reconstructed to the atom by a smaller amount of information.

    >Or perhaps we should first agree on what you mean by information. I see
    >it as what is being transfered from one human being to another.

    Bits. Information is *measured* in bits. Transfer has nothing to do with measurement. Humans however can only store a few bits per second, so
    *many* gram-moles (Avogadro's Number) of information are *massively* compressed. We would consider a copy of a statue of a human accurate to 0.01 percent to be identical to another one. They aren't of course, but at the compression we use, you store an essentially identical memory by viewing either.

    How much memory do I retain from seeing Rodin's _Burghers of Calais_ at Stanford University a few years ago? (By bright moonlight I might add.) Enough to remember they were strung out across a plaza and not in a group they way they are here:

    I also remember the hands and feet being exaggerated (even for the large size of the sculpture). I remember enough to agree with this snippet from Google:

    Rodin "Burghers"
    ... The posture expresses an attitude of utter grief and despair. Rodin could have selected many scenes from the legend of "The Burghers of Calais". ... garden/bofc/boc.html - 10k - Cached - Similar pages

    (Well worth reading!)

    >You may see it as anything that can be analyzed and some information
    >discovered about it. But most of that information would not be memetic
    >because it was not transfered from one mind to another. Of course, if you
    >write a paper about that information, then it would become memetic.

    I am sorry, but you just *can't* use words like Humpty Dumpty did in Through the Looking Glass!

    At least not in a discussion where there are people who are into scientific/engineering culture. There is a *deep* understanding of
    "information" in mathematical and physical terms.

    bit (b) [1] the basic unit of information. Each bit records one of the two possible answers to a single question: "0" or "1," "yes" or "no," "on" or "off." Logically, this is the smallest quantity of information that can exist. The word "bit", coined by the American statistician and computer scientist John Tukey (b. 1915) in 1946, is an acronym for binary digit.

    bit (b) [2] a logarithmic unit of storage capacity, equal to the base-2 logarithm of the number of possible states of the storage device or location. If data is stored as binary digits, this reduces to definition [1]: an 8-bit storage location, for example, has 28 = 256 possible states, so its capacity is log2 28 = 8 bits. If, however, a storage location stores one letter, then it has 26 possible states, and its storage capacity is log2 26 = 4.7004 bits.

    bit (b) [3] a unit of information content, now known properly as the shannon.

    shannon (Sh) a unit of information content used in information and communications theory. The definition is based on the idea that less-likely messages are more informative than more-likely ones (for example, if a volcano rarely erupts, then a message that it is erupting is more informative than a message it is not erupting). If a message has probability p of being received, then its information content is -log2 p shannons. For example, if the message consists of 10 letters, and all strings of 10 letters are equally likely, then the probablity of a particular message is 1/2610 and the information content of the message is 10(log2 26) = 47.004 shannons. This unit was originally called the bit [3], because when the message is a bit string and all strings are equally likely, then the information content turns out to equal the number of bits. One shannon equals log10 2 = 0.301 030 hartley or loge 2 = 0.693 147 nat. The unit is named for the American mathematician Claude Shannon (1916-2001), the founder of information theory.

    Lucent - Information Theory
    ... In 1948, Bell Labs scientist Claude Shannon developed Information Theory, and the world of communications technology has never been the same. ... Description: A basic introduction and history of information theory from Bell Labs. Category: Science > Math > Applications > Information Theory - 13k - 1 Feb 2003 - Cached - Similar pages

    A Mathematical Theory of Communication
    ... was reproduced in the collection Key Papers in the Development of Information Theory
    [2]. The paper also appears in Claude Elwood Shannon: Collected Papers [3 ... Description: Claude Shannon's seminal paper, made available by Bell Labs in PostScript and PDF. Category: Science > Math > Applications > Communication Theory - 5k - Cached - Similar pages

    If you want to redefine "square root" in the context of a discussion on mathematics you have to expect people to object.

    I think what you are trying to do is discuss perception of something like a painting or statue in cultural (meme pool) terms. As you may be able to tell, this is something I really appreciate. But please be careful about using words that have specific and long established technical definitions.

    Keith Henson

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