**Information theory**studies the quantification, storage, and communication of information. It was originally proposed by Claude E. Shannon in 1948 to find fundamental limits on signal processing and communication operations such as data compression, in a landmark paper entitled "A Mathematical Theory of Communication". Now this theory has found applications in many other areas, including statistical inference, natural language processing, cryptography, neurobiology, the evolution and function of molecular codes, model selection in ecology, thermal physics, quantum computing, linguistics, plagiarism detection, pattern recognition, and anomaly detection.

A key measure in information theory is "entropy". Entropy quantifies the amount of uncertainty involved in the value of a random variable or the outcome of a random process. For example, identifying the outcome of a fair coin flip (with two equally likely outcomes) provides less information (lower entropy) than specifying the outcome from a roll of a die (with six equally likely outcomes). Some other important measures in information theory are mutual information, channel capacity, error exponents, and relative entropy.

Applications of fundamental topics of information theory include lossless data compression (e.g. ZIP files), lossy data compression (e.g. MP3s and JPEGs), and channel coding (e.g. for Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)).

The field is at the intersection of mathematics, statistics, computer science, physics, neurobiology, and electrical engineering. Its impact has been crucial to the success of the Voyager missions to deep space, the invention of the compact disc, the feasibility of mobile phones, the development of the Internet, the study of linguistics and of human perception, the understanding of black holes, and numerous other fields. Important sub-fields of information theory include source coding, channel coding, algorithmic complexity theory, algorithmic information theory, information-theoretic security, and measures of information.

Overview

Information theory studies the transmission, processing, utilization, and extraction of information. Abstractly, information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty. In the case of communication of information over a noisy channel, this abstract concept was made concrete in 1948 by Claude Shannon in his paper "A Mathematical Theory of Communication", in which "information" is thought of as a set of possible messages, where the goal is to send these messages over a noisy channel, and then to have the receiver reconstruct the message with low probability of error, in spite of the channel noise.

Information theory is closely associated with a collection of pure and applied disciplines that have been investigated and reduced to engineering practice under a variety of rubrics throughout the world over the past half century or more: adaptive systems, anticipatory systems, artificial intelligence, complex systems, complexity science, cybernetics, informatics, machine learning, along with systems sciences of many descriptions. Information theory is a broad and deep mathematical theory, with equally broad and deep applications, amongst which is the vital field of coding theory.

Coding theory is concerned with finding explicit methods, called

*codes*, for increasing the efficiency and reducing the error rate of data communication over noisy channels to near the Channel capacity. These codes can be roughly subdivided into data compression (source coding) and error-correction (channel coding) techniques. In the latter case, it took many years to find the methods

Information theory is also used in information retrieval, intelligence gathering, gambling, statistics, and even in musical composition.

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