Shannon's entropy as a measure of the “life” of the literature of a discipline
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The paper is divided in two parts. Part I deals with the novel use of the concept ofentropy H (measured in nepers) of the ageT of references cited in the literature of a specialty, and the derived parameterS=exp(H) (measured in years). We have proposed to useS (orH) as a measure of the obsolescence of the literature. The concept of entropy comes from the Theory of Information (Shannon) where its mathematical properties have been widely studied and are thus available.H andS have been calculated for the log-normal probability density functions (which model the empirical distributions ofT) of some IEEE journals and for the 58-year collection of an electronics journal, and then they have been compared to the total utility function, this latter defined in the literature. Part II recalls and discusses the mean residual life,M(T), and the expected lifeE(T), of a reference of ageT (concepts borrowed from lifetime data analysis). Besides their intrinsic applications, another possible application of these concepts may be in defining quantitatively the age of “historical” papers. Examples taken from the literatures of the XX and XIX centuries have been reported.
KeywordsEntropy Density Function Probability Density Utility Function Probability Density Function
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