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Some theories excite the popular imagination so strongly that they acquire broad cultural influence. Ideas and terminology from the technical core reach significantly beyond the original domain of application. Information theory is one such body of ideas, canonized by the name we give to our times (“the age of information”). The initial developments of information theory, notably at Bell Laboratories, were undertaken by engineers and mathematicians such as Harry Nyquist and David Slepian trying to rationalize the design of communication systems and drew from concepts from statistical physics and signal processing. Claude Shannon, in a series of papers beginning with “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” gave the field definitive shape and used similar ideas to develop a theory of cryptographic systems. Important contributions were also ...

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