Beau Lotto explains in his Ted Talk…
…and Ben Thomas interprets for Huffington Post:
The year was 1943, and the Pentagon had a problem. They’d poured millions of dollars into a new voice encryption system — dubbed the “X System” — but no one was certain how secure it was. So the top brass called in Claude Shannon to analyze their code and — if all went well — to prove that it was mathematically unbreakable.
Shannon was a new breed of mathematician: A specialist in what’s known today as information theory. To Shannon and his fellow theorists, information was something separate from the letters, numbers and facts it represented. Instead, it was something more abstract; more mathematical: in a word, it was non-redundancy.
Take, for example, the sequence of letters spelling out “Let’s crack the codes.” It’s got a high level of redundancy — not all its letters are essential for getting its message across. As long as you’ve got some practice reading English, you can look at a shorter, less-redundant sequence like “Lt’s crck th cdes” and fill in the missing sounds. Along the same lines, Hebrew and Arabic speakers can read the vowel-free written forms of their languages just fine. Our brains are surprisingly talented at picking up patterns, filling in blanks, and ignoring redundant data — only when we’re uncertain about how to fill in a blank does information become… well, informative…
[continues at Huffington Post]
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