Mathematical Digest


Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Physicists decode theBard," by Philip Ball. Nature Science Update, 21 September 2001.

The relative frequencies of words has significance when analyzing a document,but these frequencies by themselves don't say much about what part of speech aword belongs to. This article summarizes work done by two physicists inArgentina linking a statistical analysis to the meanings of words. The toolthey used, Shannon entropy, measures how context-specific a word is. All of theanalysis was done on works from English literature---Shakespeare, Dickens andRobert Louis Stevenson---with the researchers finding that using frequency andShannon entropy together can determine a word's grammatical nature.

--- Mike Breen