Yesterday we celebrated 100 years since Claude Shannon was born on 30th April 1916. I have to say that I did not know much about him and I was surprised to find out more. So, I thought that everyone should know more about this mathematician.
Claude Elwood Shannon was an American mathematician, electrical engineer, and cryptographer known as “the father of information theory”. For those of you that don’t know, information theory is a branch of applied mathematics, electrical engineering, and computer science involving the quantification, storage, and communication of information. Moreover, it has incredibly many 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, anomaly detection and other forms of data analysis.
Shannon is noted for having founded information theory with a landmark paper that he published in 1948. He is perhaps equally well known for founding digital circuit design theory in 1937, when, as a 21-year-old master’s degree student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he wrote his thesis demonstrating that electrical applications of Boolean algebra could construct any logical, numerical relationship.
This sounds very interesting, even though I don’t know much about the theory behind it. However, this was not a complete surprise for me. The thing that surprised me a lot is the connection this mathematician has with one of my favorite movies: 21. To make things more clear, the movie is the fact-based story about six MIT students who were trained to become experts in card counting and subsequently took Vegas casinos for millions in winnings. And here is the story which connect this mathematician to the movie:
Shannon and his wife Betty also used to go on weekends to Las Vegas with MIT mathematician Ed Thorp, and made very successful forays in blackjack using game theory type methods co-developed with fellow Bell Labs associate John L. Kelly Jr., a physicist, based on principles of information theory. His method, known as the High-Low method, a level 1 count methodology, works by adding 1, 0, or -1 depending on the cards that appear. Shannon and Thorp also invented a small, concealable computer to help them calculate odds while gambling. They made a fortune, as detailed in the book Fortune’s Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street by William Poundstone and corroborated by the writings of Elwyn Berlekamp, Kelly’s research assistant in 1960 and 1962. Shannon and Thorp also applied the same theory, later known as the Kelly criterion, to the stock market with even better results. Claude Shannon’s card count techniques were explained in Bringing Down the House: How Six Students Took Vegas for Millions, the best-selling book published in 2003 about the MIT Blackjack Team by Ben Mezrich. In 2008, the book was adapted into a drama film titled 21.
I know what books are going to be added to my “have to read” list. Hopefully this made you interested in this too. Have a great day and enjoy the 1st day of May. You can find me on Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, Twitter, Instagram and WeHeartIt. I will try to post there as often as possible.
Don’t forget that maths is everywhere! Enjoy! ~LThMath