Re: "minimum separabile" and the memetic code

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Sun 02 Feb 2003 - 22:59:44 GMT

  • Next message: Grant Callaghan: "Re: "minimum separabile" and the memetic code"

    (Well worth reading!) Grant said:

        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.

    Keith said:

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

    Question: Which words do you feel I am misusing and how?


    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.

    Grant: Of the definitions listed above, I think the kind we are talking about would be the shannon rather than the bit, even though it was called a bit at one time.


    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.


    I was talking in cultural terms because the subject was memes. If you want to talk science, that's a different subject -- at least until we've reached a point where memetics is called a science by the majority of people who use the term. The reason why scientists came up with the term "shannon" appears to be that the term "bit" was not useful for discussing the kinds of information transmitted through such mediums as actions, artifacts and natural phenomena (like volcanoes, for example). If bits and shannons were the same thing, I doubt the people who coined the term would have bothered to do so.

    But I'm glad you included the term "shannons" in your list of definitions. I wasn't familiar with it before and it gives me a good word to use for the kind of information we normally transmit with actions and artifacts. It also demonstrates that there is a difference between the kind of information transmitted in bits and forms other than bits.



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