IEEE Information Theory Society logo

A film

by

Mark A. Levinson

Director of the Award-Winning Film Particle Fever

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I: Introduction

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Synopsis

In a blockbuster paper in 1948, Claude Shannon introduced the notion of a "bit" and laid the foundation for the information age. His ideas ripple through nearly every aspect of modern life, influencing such diverse fields as communication, computing, cryptography, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, cosmology, linguistics, and genetics. But when interviewed in the 1980s, Shannon was more interested in showing off the gadgets he’d constructed — juggling robots, a Rubik’s Cube solving machine, a wearable computer to win at roulette, a unicycle without pedals, a flame-throwing trumpet — than rehashing the past. Mixing contemporary interviews, archival film, animation and dialogue drawn from interviews conducted with Shannon himself, The Bit Player tells the story of an overlooked genius who revolutionized the world, but never lost his childlike curiosity.

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II: Claude Shannon

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A Timeline

  • Born in Gaylord, Michigan on April 30, 1916

    1916

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  • University of Michigan, double major in mathematics and electrical engineering

    1936

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  • MIT Master’s Thesis "A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits"

    Relates electric circuits and their on/off character to Boolean Algebra, the "Mathematics of Logical Thought," laying the foundation for machines to make decisions — "to think."

    1938

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  • Noble Engineering Society Prize

    1939

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  • Summer at Cold Spring Harbor lab in NY

    1939

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  • Marries Norma Barzman

    1940

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  • MIT PhD in Mathematics "An Algebra For Theoretical Genetics"

    Invented an algebra to study genetic populations

    1940

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  • Sept—Oct, 1940 Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

    1940

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  • 25-year-old Shannon in NYC

    1941

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  • Begins work at Bell Labs

    1941

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  • A Mathematical Theory of Cryptography

    Created field of theoretical cryptography

    1945

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  • A Mathematical Theory of Communication

    Created field of Information Theory

    1948

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  • Marries Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Moore

    1949

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  • First paper outlining how a computer could play chess

    1950

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  • Presents "Theseus" a maze-solving mouse

    1951

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  • Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford

    1957

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  • Returns to MIT

    1958

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  • Awarded National Medal of Science

    1966

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  • Formally retires

    1978

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  • "Scientific Aspects of Juggling," paper

    1980

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  • Builds W.C. Fields drop juggling machine

    1983

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  • First Kyoto Prize in Mathematics

    1985

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  • Enters nursing home

    1993

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  • Died February 24, 2001

    2001

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III: The βit Players

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John Hutton

John Hutton

Claude Shannon

A consummate theater actor, John Hutton was a core member of the Denver Center Theater Company for over twenty-five years, playing a diverse range of roles that ranged from Shakespeare (Othello, King Lear, Measure for Measure) to David Hare (Racing Demon). In 2014 he returned to the East Coast to stretch his muscles on the New York stage. On film, he has played Charles Sumner in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, and has appeared in television roles in series that include Murder of a President and Power.

Judith Ivey

Judith Ivey

Betty Shannon

A versatile actress on both stage, screen and television, Judith Ivey won two Tony Awards (Steaming, Hurly Burly) and was nominated for two more (Park Your Car in Harvard Yard, The Heiress). Other Broadway and theater credits include Piaf, Bedroom Farce, Blithe Spirit, Follies, The Glass Menagerie, and The Audience (with Helen Mirren). Her film roles include Brighton Beach Memoirs, Miles from Home, Compromising Positions, Harry & Son, The Woman in Red, Sister, Sister, In Country, Hello Again, The Lonely Guy, There Goes the Neighborhood, The Devil's Advocate, What Alice Found, and Flags of Our Fathers. Among her many television roles she is most often associated with her one-year run as B.J. Poteet in Designing Women.

Kaliswa Brewster

Kaliswa Brewster

The Interviewer

A classically trained actor who studied at the prestigious American Conservatory Theater and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Kaliswa Brewster has worked onstage at The Signature Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Hartford Stage (Juliet in Tony Award-winning Darko Tresniak’s Romeo and Juliet), The Williamstown Theater Festival, American Conservatory Theater, The Guthrie Theater, Geva Theatre Center, Ma-Yi Theater Company, and The Contemporary American Theater Festival. On television, she has a recurring role in Showtime's acclaimed show, Billions, starring Damian Lewis & Paul Giamatti, and can be seen in 2017 as a recurring Guest Star on ABC's upcoming new series Time After Time. She also Guest Starred in Season 7 of CBS's hit show, Blue Bloods, and  appeared on The Inspectors, Netflix's Daredevil and A&E's Unforgettable.

Mark A. Levinson

Mark A. Levinson

Writer | Producer | Director

Before embarking on his film career, Mark earned a doctoral degree in theoretical particle physics from the University of California at Berkeley. In the film world, Mark has worked as a writer, director, producer, editor and sound supervisor on over 40 feature films. He has worked on such films as The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain, Goya’s Ghosts, The Pledge, Seven, and The Social Network. He is the writer/producer/director of the narrative feature film, Prisoner of Time, about two former Russian dissident artists in the aftermath of the Soviet Union. Most recently, he directed and produced the award-winning documentary feature, Particle Fever, about the discovery of the Higgs boson, the so-called “God Particle,” at the CERN Large Hadron Collider outside of Geneva.

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IV: Screenings

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S.F. Premiere

September 17, 2019

Alamo Drafthouse, S.F.

San Francisco, CA, United States

Food, drinks, gifts, raffle and Q&A with director Mark Levinson and Jimmy Soni, co-author of A Mind At Play!

August 2, 2019

Computer History Museum

Mountain View, CA, United States

Q&A after screening with director Mark Levinson

Open air screening under the stars in the wonderful Elysée gardens

July 2, 2019

World Congress of Science Journalists 2019

Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland

Director Mark Levinson will attend and participate in a Q&A

World Premiere

May 29, 2019

World Science Festival

Museum of the Moving Image, New York, NY, United States

Followed by a conversation discussing Claude Shannon’s legacy and the impact of his work with MIT professor Robert Gallager and director Mark A. Levinson

Request
a Screening
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V: Mailing List

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VI: More In⨍ormation

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A Mind at Play book cover

A Mind at Play

by Jimmy Soni, Rob Goodman

The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood book cover

The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood

by James Gleick

A Man for All Markets book cover

A Man for All Markets

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The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation book cover

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

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Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street book cover

Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street

by William Poundstone

The Logician and the Engineer: How George Boole and Claude Shannon Created the Information Age book cover

The Logician and the Engineer: How George Boole and Claude Shannon Created the Information Age

by Paul J. Nahin

Information Theory: A Tutorial Introduction book cover

Information Theory: A Tutorial Introduction

by James V. Stone

Claude Shannon and Theseus

Bell Labs Video of Shannon demonstrating his mouse "Theseus" in a maze
A Made-For-TV Compression Algorithm
Isabella Vosmikova/HBO
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