As a first-year research assistant at MIT, he worked on a hundred-ton proto-computer, Vannevar Bush’s Differential Analyzer, which could solve equations with great rotating gears, shafts, and wheels. At twenty-two he wrote a dissertation that applied a nineteenth-century idea, George Boole’s algebra of logic, to the design of electrical circuits. (Logic and electricity—a peculiar combination.) Later he worked with the mathematician and logician Hermann Weyl, who taught him what a theory was: “Theories permit consciousness to ‘jump over its own shadow,’ to leave behind the given, to...
Isaac Newton appropriated words that were ancient and vague—force, mass, motion, and even time—and gave them new meanings. Newton made these terms into quantities, suitable for use in mathematical formulas. Until then, motion (for example) had been just as soft and inclusive a term as information. For Aristotelians, motion covered a far-flung family of phenomena: a peach ripening, a stone falling, a child growing, a body decaying. That was too rich. Most varieties of motion had to be tossed out before Newton’s laws could apply and the Scientific Revolution could succeed. In the nineteenth...
decoding. Evolution itself embodies an ongoing exchange of information between organism and environment. “The information circle becomes the unit of life,” says Werner Loewenstein
The spoken letters B and V are easy to confuse; bravo and victor are safer. M and N become mike and november. In the case of numbers, five and nine, particularly prone to confusion, are spoken as fife and niner. The extra syllables perform the same function as the extra verbosity of the talking drums.