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Teaching Information Theory with Mathematica

Yehuda Ben-Shimol
Organization: Ben Gurion University of the Negev

2005 Wolfram Technology Conference
Conference location

Champaign IL

Information theory is the theoretical foundation of modern digital communication and is used for analyzing the capacity of communication channels and the performance and limits of error correction and data compression algorithms. Traditional courses on information theory for electrical and communication engineers are focused on the analytical development of expressions that are derived from the fundamental concept of entropy, thus adopting the approach presented by Cover and Thomas in their famous book [1]. This “analytical” approach usually does not build solid intuition, which is necessary for the students to deal with such deep concepts.

The author was asked to lecture a course on information theory that is not in his area of expertise. Motivated by his experience with Mathematica, and the book of MacKay [2], he decided to take another approach that would use Mathematica as a primary tool for demonstrating examples and concepts of the field. In addition, the students, already having experience with Mathematica programming, were requested to cope with an unconventional “research-oriented” exploration task, using Mathematica. The task was motivated by Chapter 10 of A New Kind of Science by Stephen Wolfram [3], and was carefully designed to let the students gain a firsthand experience with the most fundamental concepts of information theory, such as randomness, entropy, information redundancy, and more.

During the talk, a close examination of the course content will be presented, accompanied by examples given to the students. The research-oriented task will also be presented with results generated by the students. Students’ quotes on Mathematica after finishing the task will close the talk.

*Applied Mathematics > Information Theory

MySlides_2005.zip (7.3 MB) - ZIP archive