Entropy (information theory)
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In information theory, entropy (more specifically, Shannon entropy) is the expected value (average) of the information contained in each message received. 'Messages' don't have to be text; in this context a 'message' is simply any flow of information. The entropy of the message is its amount of uncertainty; it increases when the message is closer to random, and decreases when it is less random. The idea here is that the less likely an event is, the more information it provides when it occurs. This seems backwards at first: it seems like messages which have more structure would contain more information, but this is not true. For example, the message 'aaaaaaaaaa' (which appears to be very structured and not random at all [although in fact it could result from a random process]) contains much less information than the message 'alphabet' (which is somewhat structured, but more random) or even the message 'axraefy6h' (which is very random). In information theory, 'information' doesn't necessarily mean useful information; it simply describes the amount of randomness of the message, so in the example above the first message has the least information and the last message has the most information, even though in everyday terms we would say that the middle message, 'alphabet', contains more information than a stream of random letters. Therefore, we would say in information theory that the first message has low entropy, the second has higher entropy, and the third has the highest entropy.
In a more technical sense, there are reasons (explained below) to define information as the negative of the logarithm of the probability distribution. The probability distribution of the events, coupled with the information amount of every event, forms a random variable whose average (also termed expected value) is the average amount of information, a.k.a. entropy, generated by this distribution. Units of entropy are the shannon, nat, or hartley, depending on the base of the logarithm used to define it, though the shannon is commonly referred to as a bit.
The logarithm of the probability distribution is useful as a measure of entropy because it is additive for independent sources. For instance, the entropy of a coin toss is 1 shannon, whereas of m tosses it is m shannons. Generally, you need log_{2}(n) bits to represent a variable that can take one of n values if n is a power of 2. If these values are equiprobable, the entropy (in shannons) is equal to the number of bits. Equality between number of bits and shannons holds only while all outcomes are equally probable. If one of the events is more probable than others, observation of that event is less informative. Conversely, observing rarer events compensate by providing more information when observed. Since observation of less probable events occurs more rarely, the net effect is that the entropy (thought of as the average information) received from nonuniformly distributed data is less than log_{2}(n). Entropy is zero when one outcome is certain. Shannon entropy quantifies all these considerations exactly when a probability distribution of the source is known. The meaning of the events observed (a.k.a. the meaning of messages) do not matter in the definition of entropy. Entropy only takes into account the probability of observing a specific event, so the information it encapsulates is information about the underlying probability distribution, not the meaning of the events themselves.
Generally, entropy refers to disorder or uncertainty. Shannon entropy was introduced by Claude E. Shannon in his 1948 paper "A Mathematical Theory of Communication".^{1} Shannon entropy provides an absolute limit on the best possible average length of lossless encoding or compression of an information source. Rényi entropy generalizes Shannon entropy.
Contents
 1 Introduction
 2 Definition
 3 Example
 4 Rationale
 5 Aspects
 5.1 Relationship to thermodynamic entropy
 5.2 Entropy as information content
 5.3 Entropy as a measure of diversity
 5.4 Data compression
 5.5 World's technological capacity to store and communicate information
 5.6 Limitations of entropy as information content
 5.7 Limitations of entropy as a measure of unpredictability
 5.8 Data as a Markov process
 5.9 bary entropy
 6 Efficiency
 7 Characterization
 8 Further properties
 9 Extending discrete entropy to the continuous case
 10 Use in combinatorics
 11 See also
 12 References
 13 Further reading
 14 External links
Introduction
Entropy is a measure of unpredictability of information content. To get an informal, intuitive understanding of the connection between these three English terms, consider the example of a poll on some political issue. Usually, such polls happen because the outcome of the poll isn't already known. In other words, the outcome of the poll is relatively unpredictable, and actually performing the poll and learning the results gives some new information; these are just different ways of saying that the entropy of the poll results is large. Now, consider the case that the same poll is performed a second time shortly after the first poll. Since the result of the first poll is already known, the outcome of the second poll can be predicted well and the results should not contain much new information; in this case the entropy of the second poll result relative to the first is small.
Now consider the example of a coin toss. When the coin is fair, that is, when the probability of heads is the same as the probability of tails, then the entropy of the coin toss is as high as it could be. This is because there is no way to predict the outcome of the coin toss ahead of time—the best we can do is predict that the coin will come up heads, and our prediction will be correct with probability 1/2. Such a coin toss has one bit of entropy since there are two possible outcomes that occur with equal probability, and learning the actual outcome contains one bit of information. Contrarily, a coin toss with a coin that has two heads and no tails has zero entropy since the coin will always come up heads, and the outcome can be predicted perfectly.
English text has fairly low entropy. In other words, it is fairly predictable. Even if we don't know exactly what is going to come next, we can be fairly certain that, for example, there will be many more e's than z's, that the combination 'qu' will be much more common than any other combination with a 'q' in it, and that the combination 'th' will be more common than 'z', 'q', or 'qu'. After the first few letters one can often guess the rest of the word. English text has between 0.6 and 1.3 bits of entropy for each character of message.^{2}^{3}
The Chinese version of Wikipedia points out that Chinese characters have a much higher entropy than English. Each character of Chinese has about log2(1/2500)=11.3bits which is almost three times higher than English. However, the discussion could be much more sophisticated than this simple calculation because in English the usage of words, not only characters, and redundancy factors could be considered.
If a compression scheme is lossless—that is, you can always recover the entire original message by decompressing—then a compressed message has the same quantity of information as the original, but communicated in fewer characters. That is, it has more information, or a higher entropy, per character. This means a compressed message has less redundancy. Roughly speaking, Shannon's source coding theorem says that a lossless compression scheme cannot compress messages, on average, to have more than one bit of information per bit of message, but that any value less than one bit of information per bit of message can be attained by employing a suitable coding scheme. The entropy of a message per bit multiplied by the length of that message is a measure of how much total information the message contains.
Shannon's theorem also implies that no lossless compression scheme can shorten all messages. If some messages come out shorter, at least one must come out longer due to the pigeonhole principle. In practical use, this is generally not a problem, because we are usually only interested in compressing certain types of messages, for example English documents as opposed to gibberish text, or digital photographs rather than noise, and it is unimportant if a compression algorithm makes some unlikely or uninteresting sequences larger. However, the problem can still arise even in everyday use when applying a compression algorithm to already compressed data: for example, making a ZIP file of music that is already in the FLAC audio format is unlikely to achieve much extra saving in space.
Definition
Named after Boltzmann's Htheorem, Shannon defined the entropy Η (Greek letter Eta) of a discrete random variable X with possible values {x_{1}, ..., x_{n}} and probability mass function P(X) as:
Here E is the expected value operator, and I is the information content of X.^{4}^{5} I(X) is itself a random variable.
The entropy can explicitly be written as
where b is the base of the logarithm used. Common values of b are 2, Euler's number e, and 10, and the unit of entropy is shannon for b = 2, nat for b = e, and hartley for b = 10.^{6} When b = 2, the units of entropy are also commonly referred to as bits.
In the case of p(x_{i}) = 0 for some i, the value of the corresponding summand 0 log_{b}(0) is taken to be 0, which is consistent with the limit:
When the distribution is continuous rather than discrete, the sum is replaced with an integral as
where P(x) represents a probability density function.
One may also define the conditional entropy of two events X and Y taking values x_{i} and y_{j} respectively, as
where p(x_{i}, y_{j}) is the probability that X = x_{i} and Y = y_{j}. This quantity should be understood as the amount of randomness in the random variable X given that you know the value of Y.
Example
Consider tossing a coin with known, not necessarily fair, probabilities of coming up heads or tails; this is known as the Bernoulli process.
The entropy of the unknown result of the next toss of the coin is maximized if the coin is fair (that is, if heads and tails both have equal probability 1/2). This is the situation of maximum uncertainty as it is most difficult to predict the outcome of the next toss; the result of each toss of the coin delivers one full bit of information.
However, if we know the coin is not fair, but comes up heads or tails with probabilities p and q, where p ≠ q, then there is less uncertainty. Every time it is tossed, one side is more likely to come up than the other. The reduced uncertainty is quantified in a lower entropy: on average each toss of the coin delivers less than one full bit of information.
The extreme case is that of a doubleheaded coin that never comes up tails, or a doubletailed coin that never results in a head. Then there is no uncertainty. The entropy is zero: each toss of the coin delivers no new information as the outcome of each coin toss is always certain. In this respect, entropy can be normalized by dividing it by information length. This ratio is called metric entropy and is a measure of the randomness of the information.
Rationale
To understand the meaning of ∑ p_{i} log(1/p_{i}), at first, try to define an information function, I, in terms of an event i with probability p_{i}. How much information is acquired due to the observation of event i? Shannon's solution follows from the fundamental properties of information:^{7}
 I(p) ≥ 0 – information is a nonnegative quantity
 I(1) = 0 – events that always occur do not communicate information
 I(p_{1} p_{2}) = I(p_{1}) + I(p_{2}) – information due to independent events is additive
The last is a crucial property. It states that joint probability communicates as much information as two individual events separately. Particularly, if the first event can yield one of n equiprobable outcomes and another has one of m equiprobable outcomes then there are mn possible outcomes of the joint event. This means that if log_{2}(n) bits are needed to encode the first value and log_{2}(m) to encode the second, one needs log_{2}(mn) = log_{2}(m) + log_{2}(n) to encode both. Shannon discovered that the proper choice of function to quantify information, preserving this additivity, is logarithmic, i.e.,
The base of the logarithm can be any fixed real number greater than 1. The different units of information (bits for log_{2}, trits for log_{3}, nats for the natural logarithm ln and so on) are just constant multiples of each other. (In contrast, the entropy would be negative if the base of the logarithm were less than 1.) For instance, in case of a fair coin toss, heads provides log_{2}(2) = 1 bit of information, which is approximately 0.693 nats or 0.631 trits. Because of additivity, n tosses provide n bits of information, which is approximately 0.693n nats or 0.631n trits.
Now, suppose we have a distribution where event i can happen with probability p_{i}. Suppose we have sampled it N times and outcome i was, accordingly, seen n_{i} = N p_{i} times. The total amount of information we have received is
 .
The average amount of information that we receive with every event is therefore
Aspects
Relationship to thermodynamic entropy
The inspiration for adopting the word entropy in information theory came from the close resemblance between Shannon's formula and very similar known formulae from statistical mechanics.
In statistical thermodynamics the most general formula for the thermodynamic entropy S of a thermodynamic system is the Gibbs entropy,
where k_{B} is the Boltzmann constant, and p_{i} is the probability of a microstate. The Gibbs entropy was defined by J. Willard Gibbs in 1878 after earlier work by Boltzmann (1872).^{8}
The Gibbs entropy translates over almost unchanged into the world of quantum physics to give the von Neumann entropy, introduced by John von Neumann in 1927,
where ρ is the density matrix of the quantum mechanical system and Tr is the trace.
At an everyday practical level the links between information entropy and thermodynamic entropy are not evident. Physicists and chemists are apt to be more interested in changes in entropy as a system spontaneously evolves away from its initial conditions, in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics, rather than an unchanging probability distribution. And, as the minuteness of Boltzmann's constant k_{B} indicates, the changes in S/k_{B} for even tiny amounts of substances in chemical and physical processes represent amounts of entropy that are extremely large compared to anything in data compression or signal processing. Furthermore, in classical thermodynamics the entropy is defined in terms of macroscopic measurements and makes no reference to any probability distribution, which is central to the definition of information entropy.
At a multidisciplinary level, however, connections can be made between thermodynamic and informational entropy, although it took many years in the development of the theories of statistical mechanics and information theory to make the relationship fully apparent. In fact, in the view of Jaynes (1957), thermodynamic entropy, as explained by statistical mechanics, should be seen as an application of Shannon's information theory: the thermodynamic entropy is interpreted as being proportional to the amount of further Shannon information needed to define the detailed microscopic state of the system, that remains uncommunicated by a description solely in terms of the macroscopic variables of classical thermodynamics, with the constant of proportionality being just the Boltzmann constant. For example, adding heat to a system increases its thermodynamic entropy because it increases the number of possible microscopic states of the system that are consistent with the measurable values of its macroscopic variables, thus making any complete state description longer. (See article: maximum entropy thermodynamics). Maxwell's demon can (hypothetically) reduce the thermodynamic entropy of a system by using information about the states of individual molecules; but, as Landauer (from 1961) and coworkers have shown, to function the demon himself must increase thermodynamic entropy in the process, by at least the amount of Shannon information he proposes to first acquire and store; and so the total thermodynamic entropy does not decrease (which resolves the paradox). Landauer's principle imposes a lower bound on the amount of heat a computer must generate to process a given amount of information, though modern computers are far less efficient.
Entropy as information content
Entropy is defined in the context of a probabilistic model. Independent fair coin flips have an entropy of 1 bit per flip. A source that always generates a long string of B's has an entropy of 0, since the next character will always be a 'B'.
The entropy rate of a data source means the average number of bits per symbol needed to encode it. Shannon's experiments with human predictors show an information rate between 0.6 and 1.3 bits per character in English;^{9} the PPM compression algorithm can achieve a compression ratio of 1.5 bits per character in English text.
From the preceding example, note the following points:
 The amount of entropy is not always an integer number of bits.
 Many data bits may not convey information. For example, data structures often store information redundantly, or have identical sections regardless of the information in the data structure.
Shannon's definition of entropy, when applied to an information source, can determine the minimum channel capacity required to reliably transmit the source as encoded binary digits (see caveat below in italics). The formula can be derived by calculating the mathematical expectation of the amount of information contained in a digit from the information source. See also ShannonHartley theorem.
Shannon's entropy measures the information contained in a message as opposed to the portion of the message that is determined (or predictable). Examples of the latter include redundancy in language structure or statistical properties relating to the occurrence frequencies of letter or word pairs, triplets etc. See Markov chain.
Entropy as a measure of diversity
Entropy is one of several ways to measure diversity. Specifically, Shannon entropy is the logarithm of ^{1}D, the true diversity index with parameter equal to 1.
Data compression
Entropy effectively bounds the performance of the strongest lossless compression possible, which can be realized in theory by using the typical set or in practice using Huffman, Lempel–Ziv or arithmetic coding. The performance of existing data compression algorithms is often used as a rough estimate of the entropy of a block of data.^{10}^{11} See also Kolmogorov complexity. In practice, compression algorithms deliberately include some judicious redundancy in the form of checksums to protect against errors.
World's technological capacity to store and communicate information
A 2011 study in Science estimates the world's technological capacity to store and communicate optimally compressed information normalized on the most effective compression algorithms available in the year 2007, therefore estimating the entropy of the technologically available sources.^{12}
Type of Information  1986  2007 

Storage  2.6  295 
Broadcast  432  1900 
Telecommunications  0.281  65 
The authors estimate humankind technological capacity to store information (fully entropically compressed) in 1986 and again in 2007. They break the information into three categories—to store information on a medium, to receive information through a oneway broadcast networks, or to exchange information through twoway telecommunication networks.^{12}
Limitations of entropy as information content
There are a number of entropyrelated concepts that mathematically quantify information content in some way:
 the selfinformation of an individual message or symbol taken from a given probability distribution,
 the entropy of a given probability distribution of messages or symbols, and
 the entropy rate of a stochastic process.
(The "rate of selfinformation" can also be defined for a particular sequence of messages or symbols generated by a given stochastic process: this will always be equal to the entropy rate in the case of a stationary process.) Other quantities of information are also used to compare or relate different sources of information.
It is important not to confuse the above concepts. Often it is only clear from context which one is meant. For example, when someone says that the "entropy" of the English language is about 1 bit per character, they are actually modeling the English language as a stochastic process and talking about its entropy rate. Shannon himself used the term in this way.^{3}
Although entropy is often used as a characterization of the information content of a data source, this information content is not absolute: it depends crucially on the probabilistic model. A source that always generates the same symbol has an entropy rate of 0, but the definition of what a symbol is depends on the alphabet. Consider a source that produces the string ABABABABAB... in which A is always followed by B and vice versa. If the probabilistic model considers individual letters as independent, the entropy rate of the sequence is 1 bit per character. But if the sequence is considered as "AB AB AB AB AB..." with symbols as twocharacter blocks, then the entropy rate is 0 bits per character.
However, if we use very large blocks, then the estimate of percharacter entropy rate may become artificially low. This is because in reality, the probability distribution of the sequence is not knowable exactly; it is only an estimate. For example, suppose one considers the text of every book ever published as a sequence, with each symbol being the text of a complete book. If there are N published books, and each book is only published once, the estimate of the probability of each book is 1/N, and the entropy (in bits) is −log_{2}(1/N) = log_{2}(N). As a practical code, this corresponds to assigning each book a unique identifier and using it in place of the text of the book whenever one wants to refer to the book. This is enormously useful for talking about books, but it is not so useful for characterizing the information content of an individual book, or of language in general: it is not possible to reconstruct the book from its identifier without knowing the probability distribution, that is, the complete text of all the books. The key idea is that the complexity of the probabilistic model must be considered. Kolmogorov complexity is a theoretical generalization of this idea that allows the consideration of the information content of a sequence independent of any particular probability model; it considers the shortest program for a universal computer that outputs the sequence. A code that achieves the entropy rate of a sequence for a given model, plus the codebook (i.e. the probabilistic model), is one such program, but it may not be the shortest.
For example, the Fibonacci sequence is 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, ... . Treating the sequence as a message and each number as a symbol, there are almost as many symbols as there are characters in the message, giving an entropy of approximately log_{2}(n). So the first 128 symbols of the Fibonacci sequence has an entropy of approximately 7 bits/symbol. However, the sequence can be expressed using a formula [F(n) = F(n−1) + F(n−2) for n={3,4,5,...}, F(1)=1, F(2)=1] and this formula has a much lower entropy and applies to any length of the Fibonacci sequence.
Limitations of entropy as a measure of unpredictability
In cryptanalysis, entropy is often roughly used as a measure of the unpredictability of a cryptographic key. For example, a 128bit key that is randomly generated has 128 bits of entropy. It takes (on average) guesses to break by brute force. If the key's first digit is 0, and the others random, then the entropy is 127 bits, and it takes (on average) guesses.
However, entropy fails to capture the number of guesses required if the possible keys are not of equal probability.^{13}^{14} If the key is half the time "password" and half the time a true random 128bit key, then the entropy is approximately 65 bits. Yet half the time the key may be guessed on the first try, if your first guess is "password", and on average, it takes around guesses (not ) to break this password.
Similarly, consider a 1000000digit binary onetime pad. If the pad has 1000000 bits of entropy, it is perfect. If the pad has 999999 bits of entropy, evenly distributed (each individual bit of the pad having 0.999999 bits of entropy) it may still be considered very good. But if the pad has 999999 bits of entropy, where the first digit is fixed and the remaining 999999 digits are perfectly random, then the first digit of the ciphertext will not be encrypted at all.
Data as a Markov process
A common way to define entropy for text is based on the Markov model of text. For an order0 source (each character is selected independent of the last characters), the binary entropy is:
where p_{i} is the probability of i. For a firstorder Markov source (one in which the probability of selecting a character is dependent only on the immediately preceding character), the entropy rate is:
 ^{citation needed}
where i is a state (certain preceding characters) and is the probability of j given i as the previous character.
For a second order Markov source, the entropy rate is
bary entropy
In general the bary entropy of a source = (S,P) with source alphabet S = {a_{1}, ..., a_{n}} and discrete probability distribution P = {p_{1}, ..., p_{n}} where p_{i} is the probability of a_{i} (say p_{i} = p(a_{i})) is defined by:
Note: the b in "bary entropy" is the number of different symbols of the ideal alphabet used as a standard yardstick to measure source alphabets. In information theory, two symbols are necessary and sufficient for an alphabet to encode information. Therefore, the default is to let b = 2 ("binary entropy"). Thus, the entropy of the source alphabet, with its given empiric probability distribution, is a number equal to the number (possibly fractional) of symbols of the "ideal alphabet", with an optimal probability distribution, necessary to encode for each symbol of the source alphabet. Also note that "optimal probability distribution" here means a uniform distribution: a source alphabet with n symbols has the highest possible entropy (for an alphabet with n symbols) when the probability distribution of the alphabet is uniform. This optimal entropy turns out to be log_{b}(n).
Efficiency
A source alphabet with nonuniform distribution will have less entropy than if those symbols had uniform distribution (i.e. the "optimized alphabet"). This deficiency in entropy can be expressed as a ratio called efficiency^{this quote needs a citation}:
 ^{clarification needed}
Efficiency has utility in quantifying the effective use of a communications channel. This formulation is also referred to as the normalized entropy, as the entropy is divided by the maximum entropy .
Characterization
Shannon entropy is characterized by a small number of criteria, listed below. Any definition of entropy satisfying these assumptions has the form
where K is a constant corresponding to a choice of measurement units.
In the following, p_{i} = Pr(X = x_{i}) and .
Continuity
The measure should be continuous, so that changing the values of the probabilities by a very small amount should only change the entropy by a small amount.
Symmetry
The measure should be unchanged if the outcomes x_{i} are reordered.
 etc.
Maximum
The measure should be maximal if all the outcomes are equally likely (uncertainty is highest when all possible events are equiprobable).
For equiprobable events the entropy should increase with the number of outcomes.
Additivity
The amount of entropy should be independent of how the process is regarded as being divided into parts.
This last functional relationship characterizes the entropy of a system with subsystems. It demands that the entropy of a system can be calculated from the entropies of its subsystems if the interactions between the subsystems are known.
Given an ensemble of n uniformly distributed elements that are divided into k boxes (subsystems) with b_{1}, ..., b_{k} elements each, the entropy of the whole ensemble should be equal to the sum of the entropy of the system of boxes and the individual entropies of the boxes, each weighted with the probability of being in that particular box.
For positive integers b_{i} where b_{1} + ... + b_{k} = n,
Choosing k = n, b_{1} = ... = b_{n} = 1 this implies that the entropy of a certain outcome is zero: Η_{1}(1) = 0. This implies that the efficiency of a source alphabet with n symbols can be defined simply as being equal to its nary entropy. See also Redundancy (information theory).
Further properties
The Shannon entropy satisfies the following properties, for some of which it is useful to interpret entropy as the amount of information learned (or uncertainty eliminated) by revealing the value of a random variable X:
 Adding or removing an event with probability zero does not contribute to the entropy:

 .
 It can be confirmed using the Jensen inequality that

 .
 This maximal entropy of log_{b}(n) is effectively attained by a source alphabet having a uniform probability distribution: uncertainty is maximal when all possible events are equiprobable.
 The entropy or the amount of information revealed by evaluating (X,Y) (that is, evaluating X and Y simultaneously) is equal to the information revealed by conducting two consecutive experiments: first evaluating the value of Y, then revealing the value of X given that you know the value of Y. This may be written as
 If Y=f(X) where f is deterministic, then Η(f(X)X) = 0. Applying the previous formula to Η(X, f(X)) yields

 so Η(f(X)) ≤ Η(X), thus the entropy of a variable can only decrease when the latter is passed through a deterministic function.
 If X and Y are two independent experiments, then knowing the value of Y doesn't influence our knowledge of the value of X (since the two don't influence each other by independence):
 The entropy of two simultaneous events is no more than the sum of the entropies of each individual event, and are equal if the two events are independent. More specifically, if X and Y are two random variables on the same probability space, and (X,Y) denotes their Cartesian product, then
Proving this mathematically follows easily from the previous two properties of entropy.
Extending discrete entropy to the continuous case
Differential entropy
The Shannon entropy is restricted to random variables taking discrete values. The corresponding formula for a continuous random variable with probability density function f(x) with finite or infinite support on the real line is defined by analogy, using the above form of the entropy as an expectation:
This formula is usually referred to as the continuous entropy, or differential entropy. A precursor of the continuous entropy hf is the expression for the functional H in the Htheorem of Boltzmann.
Although the analogy between both functions is suggestive, the following question must be set: is the differential entropy a valid extension of the Shannon discrete entropy? Differential entropy lacks a number of properties that the Shannon discrete entropy has – it can even be negative – and thus corrections have been suggested, notably limiting density of discrete points.
To answer this question, we must establish a connection between the two functions:
We wish to obtain a generally finite measure as the bin size goes to zero. In the discrete case, the bin size is the (implicit) width of each of the n (finite or infinite) bins whose probabilities are denoted by p_{n}. As we generalize to the continuous domain, we must make this width explicit.
To do this, start with a continuous function f discretized into bins of size . By the meanvalue theorem there exists a value x_{i} in each bin such that
and thus the integral of the function f can be approximated (in the Riemannian sense) by
where this limit and "bin size goes to zero" are equivalent.
We will denote
and expanding the logarithm, we have
As Δ → 0, we have
But note that log(Δ) → −∞ as Δ → 0, therefore we need a special definition of the differential or continuous entropy:
which is, as said before, referred to as the differential entropy. This means that the differential entropy is not a limit of the Shannon entropy for n → ∞. Rather, it differs from the limit of the Shannon entropy by an infinite offset.
It turns out as a result that, unlike the Shannon entropy, the differential entropy is not in general a good measure of uncertainty or information. For example, the differential entropy can be negative; also it is not invariant under continuous coordinate transformations.
Relative entropy
Another useful measure of entropy that works equally well in the discrete and the continuous case is the relative entropy of a distribution. It is defined as the Kullback–Leibler divergence from the distribution to a reference measure m as follows. Assume that a probability distribution p is absolutely continuous with respect to a measure m, i.e. is of the form p(dx) = f(x)m(dx) for some nonnegative mintegrable function f with mintegral 1, then the relative entropy can be defined as
In this form the relative entropy generalises (up to change in sign) both the discrete entropy, where the measure m is the counting measure, and the differential entropy, where the measure m is the Lebesgue measure. If the measure m is itself a probability distribution, the relative entropy is nonnegative, and zero if p = m as measures. It is defined for any measure space, hence coordinate independent and invariant under coordinate reparameterizations if one properly takes into account the transformation of the measure m. The relative entropy, and implicitly entropy and differential entropy, do depend on the "reference" measure m.
Use in combinatorics
Entropy has become a useful quantity in combinatorics.
LoomisWhitney inequality
A simple example of this is an alternate proof of the LoomisWhitney inequality: for every subset A ⊆ Z^{d}, we have
where P_{i} is the orthogonal projection in the ith coordinate:
The proof follows as a simple corollary of Shearer's inequality: if X_{1}, ..., X_{d} are random variables and S_{1}, ..., S_{n} are subsets of {1, ..., d} such that every integer between 1 and d lies in exactly r of these subsets, then
where is the Cartesian product of random variables X_{j} with indexes j in S_{i} (so the dimension of this vector is equal to the size of S_{i}).
We sketch how LoomisWhitney follows from this: Indeed, let X be a uniformly distributed random variable with values in A and so that each point in A occurs with equal probability. Then (by the further properties of entropy mentioned above) Η(X) = logA, where A denotes the cardinality of A. Let S_{i} = {1, 2, ..., i−1, i+1, ..., d}. The range of is contained in P_{i}(A) and hence . Now use this to bound the right side of Shearer's inequality and exponentiate the opposite sides of the resulting inequality you obtain.
Approximation to binomial coefficient
For integers 0 < k < n let q = k/n. Then
where
 ^{15}
Here is a sketch proof. Note that is one term of the expression
Rearranging gives the upper bound. For the lower bound one first shows, using some algebra, that it is the largest term in the summation. But then,
since there are n+1 terms in the summation. Rearranging gives the lower bound.
A nice interpretation of this is that the number of binary strings of length n with exactly k many 1's is approximately .^{16}
See also
 Conditional entropy
 Cross entropy – is a measure of the average number of bits needed to identify an event from a set of possibilities between two probability distributions
 Diversity index – alternative approaches to quantifying diversity in a probability distribution
 Entropy (arrow of time)
 Entropy encoding – a coding scheme that assigns codes to symbols so as to match code lengths with the probabilities of the symbols.
 Entropy estimation
 Entropy power inequality
 Entropy rate
 Fisher information
 Hamming distance
 History of entropy
 History of information theory
 Information geometry
 Joint entropy – is the measure how much entropy is contained in a joint system of two random variables.
 KolmogorovSinai entropy in dynamical systems
 Levenshtein distance
 Mutual information
 Negentropy
 Perplexity
 Qualitative variation – other measures of statistical dispersion for nominal distributions
 Quantum relative entropy – a measure of distinguishability between two quantum states.
 Rényi entropy – a generalisation of Shannon entropy; it is one of a family of functionals for quantifying the diversity, uncertainty or randomness of a system.
 Randomness
 Shannon index
 Theil index
 Typoglycemia
References
 ^ Shannon, Claude E. (July–October 1948). "A Mathematical Theory of Communication". Bell System Technical Journal 27 (3): 379–423. doi:10.1002/j.15387305.1948.tb01338.x. (PDF)
 ^ Schneier, B: Applied Cryptography, Second edition, page 234. John Wiley and Sons.
 ^ ^{a} ^{b} Shannon, C. E. (January 1951). "Prediction and Entropy of Printed English" (PDF). Bell System Technical Journal 30 (1): 50–64. doi:10.1002/j.15387305.1951.tb01366.x. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
 ^ Borda, Monica (2011). Fundamentals in Information Theory and Coding. Springer. p. 11. ISBN 9783642203466.
 ^ Han, Te Sun & Kobayashi, Kingo (2002). Mathematics of Information and Coding. American Mathematical Society. pp. 19–20. ISBN 9780821842560.
 ^ Schneider, T.D, Information theory primer with an appendix on logarithms, National Cancer Institute, 14 April 2007.
 ^ Carter, Tom (March 2014). An introduction to information theory and entropy (PDF). Santa Fe. Retrieved Aug 2014.
 ^ Compare: Boltzmann, Ludwig (1896, 1898). Vorlesungen über Gastheorie : 2 Volumes – Leipzig 1895/98 UB: O 52626. English version: Lectures on gas theory. Translated by Stephen G. Brush (1964) Berkeley: University of California Press; (1995) New York: Dover ISBN 0486684555
 ^ Mark Nelson (24 August 2006). "The Hutter Prize". Retrieved 20081127.
 ^ T. Schürmann and P. Grassberger, Entropy Estimation of Symbol Sequences, CHAOS,Vol. 6, No. 3 (1996) 414–427
 ^ T. Schürmann, Bias Analysis in Entropy Estimation J. Phys. A: Math. Gen. 37 (2004) L295L301.
 ^ ^{a} ^{b} "The World's Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information", Martin Hilbert and Priscila López (2011), Science (journal), 332(6025), 60–65; free access to the article through here: martinhilbert.net/WorldInfoCapacity.html
 ^ Massey, James (1994). "Guessing and Entropy" (PDF). Proc. IEEE International Symposium on Information Theory. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
 ^ Malone, David; Sullivan, Wayne (2005). "Guesswork is not a Substitute for Entropy" (PDF). Proceedings of the Information Technology & Telecommunications Conference. Retrieved December 31, 2013.
 ^ Aoki, New Approaches to Macroeconomic Modeling. page 43.
 ^ Probability and Computing, M. Mitzenmacher and E. Upfal, Cambridge University Press
This article incorporates material from Shannon's entropy on PlanetMath, which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/ShareAlike License.
Further reading
Textbooks on information theory
 Arndt, C. (2004), Information Measures: Information and its Description in Science and Engineering, Springer, ISBN 9783540408550
 Cover, T. M., Thomas, J. A. (2006), Elements of information theory, 2nd Edition. WileyInterscience. ISBN 0471241954.
 Gray, R. M. (2011), Entropy and Information Theory, Springer.
 Martin, Nathaniel F.G. & England, James W. (2011). Mathematical Theory of Entropy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521177382.
 Shannon, C.E., Weaver, W. (1949) The Mathematical Theory of Communication, Univ of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252725484
 Stone, J. V. (2014), Chapter 1 of Information Theory: A Tutorial Introduction, University of Sheffield, England. ISBN 9780956372857.
External links
This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. (June 2015) 
 Hazewinkel, Michiel, ed. (2001), "Entropy", Encyclopedia of Mathematics, Springer, ISBN 9781556080104
 Introduction to entropy and information on Principia Cybernetica Web
 Entropy an interdisciplinary journal on all aspect of the entropy concept. Open access.
 Description of information entropy from "Tools for Thought" by Howard Rheingold
 A java applet representing Shannon's Experiment to Calculate the Entropy of English
 Slides on information gain and entropy
 An Intuitive Guide to the Concept of Entropy Arising in Various Sectors of Science – a wikibook on the interpretation of the concept of entropy.
 Calculator for Shannon entropy estimation and interpretation
 A Light Discussion and Derivation of Entropy
 Network Event Detection With Entropy Measures, Dr. Raimund Eimann, University of Auckland, PDF; 5993 kB – a PhD thesis demonstrating how entropy measures may be used in network anomaly detection.

