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Entropy—A Universal Concept in Sciences

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Entropy represents a universal concept in science suitable for quantifying the uncertainty of a series of random events. We define and describe this notion in an appropriate manner for physicists. We start with a brief recapitulation of the basic concept of the theory probability being useful for the determination of the concept of entropy. The history of how this concept came into its to-day exact form is sketched. We show that the Shannon entropy represents the most adequate measure of the probabilistic uncertainty of a random object. Though the notion of entropy has been introduced in classical thermodynamics as a thermodynamic state variable it relies on concepts studied in the theory of probability and mathematical statistics. We point out that whole formalisms of statistical mechanics can be rewritten in terms of Shannon entropy. The notion “entropy” is differently understood in various science disciplines: in classical physics it represents the thermodynamical state variable; in communication theory it represents the efficiency of transmission of communication; in the theory of general systems the magnitude of the configurational order; in ecology the measure for bio-diversity; in statistics the degree of disorder, etc. All these notions can be mapped on the general mathematical concept of entropy. By means of entropy, the configurational order of complex systems can be exactly quantified. Besides the Shannon entropy, there exists a class of Shannon-like entropies which converge, under certain circumstances, toward Shannon entropy. The Shannon-like entropy is sometimes easier to handle mathematically then Shannon entropy. One of the important Shannon-like entropy is well-known Tsallis entropy. The application of the Shannon and Shannon-like entropies in science is really versatile. Besides the mentioned statistical physics, they play a fundamental role in the quantum information, communication theory, in the description of disorder, etc.

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*Natural Science*,

**6**, 552-564. doi: 10.4236/ns.2014.67055.

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