Biology, Psychology & Medicine
  Discrete Math

    10 - 12 Grades
This volume is part of the monograph series of the New Liberal Arts Program (1980-1992), a project of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The NLA Program had the goal of assisting in the introduction of quantitative reasoning and concepts of modern technology within liberal education. The Program was based on the conviction that college graduates should have been introduced to both areas if they are to live in the social mainstream and participate in the resolution of policy issues. The Center for Mathematics and Quantitative Education is delighted to make these monographs available.


Morton Tavel
Vassar College

Unlike most other areas in the natural sciences, the roots of Information Theory are truly multidisciplinary, originating in physics, psychology, statistics and communications engineering. What, then, is information theory and why has it influenced such a wide range of discip1ines? To answer this question, we need a discussion of the concept of "information," which is the subject matter of the theory itself.

Information is the reduction of uncertainty. Notice that knowledge has not exactly been removed from the picture, but it has been given a highly restrictive meaning: reduction of uncertainty. Certainly knowledge can make you more sure of things, but we would ordinarily believe that knowledge is more than simply being less uncertain. We must just accept the fact that all those nuances of knowledge that go beyond mere assurance have not been quantified.

With the use of highly imaginative examples, Professor Tavel provides an easily understood explanation of Information Theory.

The discussion in this text relies on basic probability as well as an understanding of logarithms and binary numbers. It includes an application of information theory to DNA sequencing.