A study of the information contained in everything from African drumming to Wikipedia has won the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell, physicist and chairwoman of the judges for the prize, said of James Gleick’s The Information: “It is one of those very rare books that provide a completely new framework for understanding the world around us. It was a privilege to read.”
In his review in Nature, Thomas Misa, director of the Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, writes:
[Gleick] highlights the great surge of classifying and calculating often labelled as the industrial and scientific revolutions, and he profiles leading theorists, notably US mathematician Claude Shannon. Gleick acknowledges that the concept of information and its impacts are difficult to grasp, yet explains our fascination with seeing information as the driver of just about everything.
In another review, Nature’s former head of press Ruth Francis notes that the book was “a captivating and thought-provoking read”.
The full shortlist for the prize, and the reviews of them in Nature, consists of:
The Information by James Gleick
The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker
Decline of violence: Taming the devil within us — an article by Steven Pinker adapted from his book.
Nature review by Martin Daly, professor of psychology, McMaster University, Ontario.
Review by Ruth Francis.