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Cover image for A mind at play : how Claude Shannon invented the information age
Format:
Title:
A mind at play : how Claude Shannon invented the information age
ISBN:
9781476766683

9781476766690
Publication:
New York : Simon & Schuster, 2017.
Physical Description:
xv, 366 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Contents:
Gaylord -- Ann Arbor -- The room-sized brain -- MIT -- A decidedly unconventional type of youngster -- Cold Spring Harbor -- The labs -- Princeton -- Fire control -- A six-day workweek -- The unspeakable system -- Turing -- Manhattan -- The utter dark -- From intelligence to information -- The bomb -- Building a bandwagon -- Mathematical intentions, honorable and otherwise -- Wiener -- A transformative year -- TMI -- "We urgently need the assistance of Dr. Claude E. Shannon" -- The man-machines -- The game of kings -- Constructive dissatisfaction -- Professor Shannon -- Inside information -- A gadgeteer's paradise -- Peculiar motions -- Kyoto -- The illness -- Aftershocks.
Summary:
Chronicles the life and times of the lesser-known Information Age intellect, revealing how his discoveries and innovations set the stage for the digital era, influencing the work of such collaborators and rivals as Alan Turing, John von Neumann and Vannevar Bush.

"The life and times of one of the foremost intellects of the twentieth century: Claude Shannon--the architect of the Information Age, whose insights stand behind every computer built, email sent, video streamed, and webpage loaded. Claude Shannon was a groundbreaking polymath, a brilliant tinkerer, and a digital pioneer. He constructed a fleet of customized unicycles and a flamethrowing trumpet, outfoxed Vegas casinos, and built juggling robots. He also wrote the seminal text of the digital revolution, which has been called 'the Magna Carta of the Information Age.' His discoveries would lead contemporaries to compare him to Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. His work anticipated by decades the world we'd be living in today--and gave mathematicians and engineers the tools to bring that world to pass. In this elegantly written, exhaustively researched biography, Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman reveal Claude Shannon's full story for the first time. It's the story of a small-town Michigan boy whose career stretched from the era of room-sized computers powered by gears and string to the age of Apple. It's the story of the origins of our digital world in the tunnels of MIT and the 'idea factory' of Bell Labs, in the 'scientists' war' with Nazi Germany, and in the work of Shannon's collaborators and rivals, thinkers like Alan Turing, John von Neumann, Vannevar Bush, and Norbert Wiener. And it's the story of Shannon's life as an often reclusive, always playful genius. With access to Shannon's family and friends, A Mind at Play brings this singular innovator and creative genius to life."--Jacket.
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921 Shannon, Claude Elwood 2017
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921 SHANNON
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Summary

Summary

Winner of the Neumann Prize for the History of Mathematics

**Named a best book of the year by Bloomberg and Nature **

**'Best of 2017' by The Morning Sun **

"We owe Claude Shannon a lot, and Soni & Goodman's book takes a big first step in paying that debt." -- San Francisco Review of Books

"Soni and Goodman are at their best when they invoke the wonder an idea can instill. They summon the right level of awe while stopping short of hyperbole." -- Financial Times

"Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman make a convincing case for their subtitle while reminding us that Shannon never made this claim himself." -- The Wall Street Journal

"Soni and Goodman have done their research... A Mind at Play reveals the remarkable human behind some of the most important theoretical and practical contributions to the information age." -- Nature

"A Mind at Play shows us that you don't need to be a genius to learn from a genius. Claude Shannon's inventive, vibrant life demonstrates how vital the act of play can be to making the most of work." -- Inc.

"A charming account of one of the twentieth century's most distinguished scientists...Readers will enjoy this portrait of a modern-day Da Vinci." -- Fortune

In their second collaboration, biographers Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman present the story of Claude Shannon--one of the foremost intellects of the twentieth century and the architect of the Information Age, whose insights stand behind every computer built, email sent, video streamed, and webpage loaded. Claude Shannon was a groundbreaking polymath, a brilliant tinkerer, and a digital pioneer. He constructed the first wearable computer, outfoxed Vegas casinos, and built juggling robots. He also wrote the seminal text of the digital revolution, which has been called "the Magna Carta of the Information Age." In this elegantly written, exhaustively researched biography, Soni and Goodman reveal Claude Shannon's full story for the first time. With unique access to Shannon's family and friends, A Mind at Play brings this singular innovator and always playful genius to life.


Author Notes

Jimmy Soni has served as an editor at The New York Observer and the Washington Examiner and as managing editor of Huffington Post . He is a former speechwriter, and his written work and commentary have appeared in Slate , The Atlantic , and CNN, among other outlets. He is a graduate of Duke University. With Rob Goodman, he is the coauthor of Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato , Mortal Enemy of Caesar , and A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age .

Rob Goodman is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University and a former congressional speechwriter. He has written for Slate , The Atlantic , Politico , and The Chronicle of Higher Education. His scholarly work has appeared in History of Political Thought , the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal , and The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. With Jimmy Soni, he is the coauthor of Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato , Mortal Enemy of Caesar , and A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age .


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

A key figure in the development of digital technology has his achievements, if not his personality, burnished in this enlightening biography. Journalists Soni and Goodman, authors of Rome's Last Citizen, explore Claude Shannon's breakthroughs as a scientist at MIT and Bell Labs in the 1930s and '40s in electronics and telecommunications. His noteworthy discoveries include a way to rationally design circuits using Boolean algebra, and information theory, which understands communications as bits and shows how to compress them and remove noise-methods that underlie DVDs, the Internet, and much else. The authors' rundown of the science behind these advances, probing everything from the structure of language to the transatlantic telegraph, is lucid and fascinating. Unfortunately, Shannon's retiring demeanor and uneventful life don't make for a dramatic narrative. The authors' interpretation that Shannon's mental "playfulness" stimulated his scientific creativity also seems misconstrued: his serious accomplishments were achieved before the age of 33, when he was working at assigned tasks; during his later life he pursued various interests-whimsical robots, chess-playing machines, a scientific study of juggling-but achieved nothing noteworthy. Still, Soni and Goodman open an engrossing window onto what a mind hard at work can do. Agent: Laura Yorke, Carol Mann Agency. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

The life of the man called "the father of information theory."Claude Shannon (1916-2001) made a contribution of signal importance to the modern world when he was only 21: he divined that instead of using mechanical switches, a modern computer would better employ electrical switches that, quite apart from simply controlling electrical flow, could also, "in principle, perform a passable imitation of a brain." That is, a machine could be designed to use logic. This scientific insight, write former Huffington Post managing editor Soni and journalist/speechwriter Goodman, co-authors of Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar (2012), ranks among the most important of the 20th century. Shannon went on to work in wartime cryptography and met fellow mathematician Alan Turing, but each was so constrained by security clearances that they could not compare notes and do something even bigger and better than Enigma and other projects. This account lacks a little of the spark and scientific depth of, say, Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, but it covers the bases well. The authors write fluently, for instance, of how Boolean logic influenced Shannon's discovery: "And because Boole had shown how to resolve logic into a series of binary, true-false decisions, any system capable of representing binaries has access to the entire logical universe he described." They go on to describe some of Shannon's later discoveries, including a kind of algebra of genetics that might have been too much ahead of its time, as well as his considerable eccentricities. Shannon spent much of his later life tinkering rather than producing work approaching his youthful contributions. Still, readers will be intrigued by a mad scientist who rode the halls of Bell Labs atop a unicycle while juggling, a feat at which he did not excel. A welcome and inspiring account of a largely unsung herounsung because, the authors suggest, he accomplished something so fundamental that it's difficult to imagine a world without it. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Claude Shannon (1916-2001) is to computer science what Newton is to physics: the mind that revolutionized its field. In his master's thesis, Shannon devised the binary digit, or the bit by which digital computers operate. Then, in a 1948 paper titled A Mathematical Theory of Communication, he demonstrated that information is not image, word, or sound but, rather, a quantity as subject to applied engineering as any physical material. Clearly a genius, but what sort of person was he? Soni and Goodman team up again, following their biography of Cato, to present a warm and engaging portrait that traces Shannon from his Michigan boyhood to his standing as a modest scientific celebrity. Although introverted, Shannon was not unsocial, and he was much liked and respected. Much of his personality is revealed in the authors' chronicle of Shannon's eclectic projects, from the serious, such as his work on cryptology for the government, to the whimsical, including his invention of a calculator for Roman numerals. Shannon's delight in solving puzzles was the perfect trait for a founder of the information age.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2017 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Rather than limit their characterization of Claude Shannon (1916-2001) to his identity as the father of information theory, Soni, a former editor for the New York Observer and Washington Examiner, and Goodman, who has contributed to Slate, the Atlantic, and other publications (coauthors, Rome's Last Citizen), deftly illustrate how personality, humility, courage, and, above all, curiosity facilitated his historical contributions. In addition to sympathizing with Shannon's awestruck colleagues and starstruck graduate students, readers will come away with a feeling of having gotten to know the man personally. This biography follows its subject from his small-town roots up to his work at the Institute for Advanced Study, the National Defense Research Committee, and Bell Labs. It demonstrates that his triumphs in the fields of engineering, math, biology, and information theory are more frequently discussed than how he accomplished these feats: by treating everything interesting as important, stripping away superfluous details, and intuiting the nature of a problem. VERDICT For historians, philosophers, cryptographers, geeks, introverts, and anyone who has ever taken something apart to understand how it works.-Ricardo Laskaris, York Univ. Lib., Toronto © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.