Information theory

Fairthorne’s theory of notification is an elegant example of a theory in information science

Fairthorne’s theory of notification clarifies the foundations of information science. He defined ‘notification’ as ‘mention and delivery of recorded messages to users’, listing as the main elements of library operations: (1) Source (e.g., authors), (2) Code (e.g., language of a book), (3) Message (the signal), (4) Channel (e.g., microfilms), (5) Destination (e.g., reader) and (6) Designation (subject description).

Nitecki, Joseph Z. 1995. Philosophical Aspects of Library Information Science in Retrospect.



The scope of our activities and studies lie inside Discourse but outside Signaling, i.e., outside the scope of Shannon’s Information Theory. The variables involved are, in general terms, Source, Destination, Designation, and Message, Channel, Code. In the present context a Code is a symbol system used to indicate choices made from a set of Messages, and represented by patterns of physical events (signals or inscriptions) consistent with the physical mode and conditions of communication, the Channel, in the given social and physical environment.
Formally the Message set is adequately defined as an agreed finite set of distinct identifiable entities, from which choices are made by Sources. Here we regard it also as drawn from what can be told in a given recorded language. The Sources are those within the given environment who tell it, in the sense of being agreed and identifiable publishers, distributors, organizations, or accepted authors. The latter need not be actual authors. From the present point of view the works of Shakespeare, or of anonymous authors, are those records that tile local retrieval tools attribute to “Shakespeare,” or to “anon.” Tile Destinations are those within the given environment who are to be told, or wish to be told. They must be identifiable, but otherwise may be organizations, functionaries, groups, or individuals. A set of Designations is assigned to Messages, Sources, or Destinations to characterize them according to what is told, or is to be told. They are aspects of what the particular discourse is “about,” in some operational sense. For example, Subject Indexing assigns topics to the messages; author indexes may be classified by subject matter; Selective Dissemination of Information designates executives according to what they should be told about. Clearly the same set of Designations can be assigned differently according to circumstances. A reader (Destination) may well differ with the author (Source) as to the main interest (Designation) of an article (Message).

source: Morphology of “Information Flow” Robert A. Fairthorne. Journal of the ACM. Volume 14 , Issue 4 (October 1967)

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Oct 12, 2007  ]

Solovyov’s Meaning of Love

While looking for the online text of Beauty in Nature and The Meaning of Love by Solovyov, I found the various online resources maintained by Michael Lee, a professor in the Department of Psychology of the University of Manitoba. I found Michael Lee’s page while looking for essays by Solovyov, and so I will add that Lee mentions him in a page called “Required Reading for Revolters“. This is what he said about Solovyov’s The Meaning of Love:


Solovyov lived from 1853 to 1900. I find him the most profound and prescient Christian theologian and visionary. He believed that romantic love was potentially the instrument for effecting the kind of spiritual transformation that would enable us to attain physical immortality and to realize the Kingdom of God on earth.

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Apr 11, 2007  ]

Gaia theory – Earth as a living system

Gaia theory, named after the Greek Earth goddess, is a combination of hypothesis about the planet as a self-regulating living system. James Lovelock is credited with the publication of the first modern scientific article on the Gaia hypothesis in the New Scientist, he also recently published an article in The Independent where he speaks of his latest book The Revenge of Gaiaand warns of the danger of global warming. The philosophical predecessors to Gaia theory include Lewis ThomasTeilhard de ChardinBuckminster Fuller. The most common criticism of Gaia theory is the charge that it is teleological.

Although Gaia theories may seem controversial, the study of the inter-relationships between various life forms and their environment (ecology), homeostasis, and emergent properties are established and accepted.

The attempt to grasp the inter-relationships that exist among all of the components of the biosphere, oceans, geosphere and the atmosphere as an Earth ecosystem is a challenge for the human mind, but the need for scientific hypotheses is evident in an age when we attempt to take responsibility for our effect on the planet.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Mar 30, 2006 ]

Definition of a system

There are many definitions of what a system is, I like Mario Bunge’s definition:

“A system is a complex object every part or component of which is connected with other parts of the same object in such a manner that the whole possesses some features that its components lack – that is emergent properties” (Bunge 1996: 20).

Examples of emergent properties of a system: structure or history of social system. Examples of emergent properties of a component (i.e., part would not possess property if were independent or isolated): role, civil right, scarcity, price (Bunge 1996: 20).

quotes from: Bunge, Mario Augusto. Finding Philosophy in Social Science. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996.

In my understanding of open systems, its components are continuously changing with their environment. Open systems have the emergent property of continuous exchange (input/output) of their components with the environment. Ludwig von Bertalanffy argues that open systems reach states of equilibrium within and through this interaction with their environment. Closed systems are isolated from their environment. Is mathematics a closed system?

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Jan 10, 2007]

Systems intelligence and interdependent arising

The concept of systems intelligence has been described by Raimo P. Hämäläinen and Esa Saarinen, researchers at the Systems Intelligence Research GroupSystems Analysis Laboratory of the Helsinki University of Technology. It is an attempt to formulate an applied systems thinking.

Esa Saarinen and Raimo P. Hämäläinen, argue that systems intelligence is a set of higher-level cognitive capacities, that are not explained by Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, or Daniel Goleman’s emotional intelligence. Gardner provided others that are not explained: common sense, metaphorical capacity and wisdom. Saarinen and Hämäläinen define systems intelligence as

intelligent behaviour in the context of complex systems
involving interaction and feedback. A subject acting with Systems Intelligence engages
successfully and productively with the holistic
feedback mechanisms of her environment. She
perceives herself as part of a whole, the influence of
the whole upon herself as well as her own influence
upon the whole. By observing her own
interdependence in the feedback intensive
environment, she is able to act intelligently.

source: Systems Intelligence – Discovering a hidden competence in human action and organizational life (PDF)

Systems Intelligence as described here seems to me to be an attempt at an industrial application of the Buddhist doctrine of dependent co-arising, Pratītyasamutpāda, the belief that “phenomena arise together in a mutually interdependent web of cause and effect”.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Jan 10, 2007]

von Bartalanffy and biological systems

Ludwig von Bartalanffy ponders on the difficulties in trying to apply the 2nd law of thermodynamics to living biological systems. This law implies that entropy increases over time in physical systems.

Biological systems, however, are recognized as maintaining a continual state of flux. Never stationary or fixed in chemical or thermodynamic equilibrium, its components are constantly altered by metabolic events.

A system compensates for its deterioration by importing and processing energy. It attains dynamic equilibrium– between its own improbable state and the surrounding environment (Bertalanffy, 1968b, pp. 46-48; General Systems Theory. New York: George Braziler, 1968.)

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Jun 20, 2006  ]

Allen Brain Atlas

Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, funded the development of the Allen Brain Atlas, which lets you navigate visual and genetic information about the brain

The Allen Brain Atlas is a web-based application that is designed to aid the expansion of brain science. Designed and developed in collaboration with an acclaimed group of scientists, the ABA enables users to access an extensive database of ISH images, ABA reference atlas, and gene expression masks. Future releases will allow users to search by gene expression pattern or level, and will contain an expanded gene data set.

source: Allen Brain Atlas, links added.

see also: NCBIWikipedia – Spatiotemporal gene expression

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Jun 16, 2006   ]

Metamaterials and invisibility

The recent article in Science, Controlling Electromagnetic Fields, by J. B. Pendry from Department of Physics, Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College London, D. Schurig and D. R. Smith from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Duke University speculate on the use of metamaterials for creating invisibility cloaks

Using the freedom of design that metamaterials provide, we show how electromagnetic fields can be redirected at will and propose a design strategy. The conserved fields–electric displacement field D, magnetic induction field B, and Poynting vector S–are all displaced in a consistent manner. A simple illustration is given of the cloaking of a proscribed volume of space to exclude completely all electromagnetic fields. Our work has relevance to exotic lens design and to the cloaking of objects from electromagnetic fields.

source: science

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from May 26, 2006  ]

Science on television

Closer To Truth (PBS) is a television series that deals with “the fundamental questions of our times explored by creative and thoughtful scientists, scholars and artists.” The video archive contains past debates with scientists on everything from parapsychology, ESP, creativity, consciousness, music and art, etc…

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Mar 20, 2006   ]

Library of Congress Call Number Sort in PHP

I needed a function that will compare Library of Congress call numbers. I found a function in PERL to do this on Joshua McGee’s site, but I needed it in PHP and our call numbers use a space instead of a period for some of the separators, for example: HA 1107 K49 2003.

Here is the function in PHP:


//is call number $a larger than call number $b?
function locsort ($a,$b)
$pattern =’/^([A-Z]+)\s?(\d+(?:\.\d+)?)\s?([A-Z]*)(\d*)\.?([A-Z]*)(\d*)( (?:\d{4})?)?(.*)?/’;

$i = preg_match($pattern, $a, $regsA);
$j = preg_match($pattern, $b, $regsB);

if (($i==0)||($j==0)) {
return($a > $b);
else {
//if first part greater then return that
//if first part equal, check second part, return that
if ($regsA[1] != $regsB[1]){
return($regsA[1] > $regsB[1]);
else {
if ($regsA[2] != $regsB[2]){
return ($regsA[2] > $regsB[2]);
else {
if ($regsA[3] != $regsB[3]){
return ($regsA[3] > $regsB[3]);
if ($regsA[4] != $regsB[4]){
return ((“0.”.$regsA[4]) > (“0.”.$regsB[4]));
else {
if ($regsA[5] != $regsB[5]){
return ($regsA[5] > $regsB[5]);
else {
if ($regsA[6] != $regsB[6]){
return ($regsA[6] > $regsB[6]);
else {
if ($regsA[7] != $regsB[7]){
return ($regsA[7] > $regsB[7]);
else {
return ($regsA[8] > $regsB[8]);

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Jan 17, 2012  ]