Peter Neumann introduced me to another Peter, the author of this delightful lil’ missive below. Thanks P^2.

[5] Elias, P., “Two famous papers” (Editorial), Sep. 1958, p. 99.

TWO FAMOUS PAPERS

PETER ELIAS

It is common in editorials to discuss matters of general policy and not specific

research. But the two papers I would like to describe have been written so often, by so

many different authors under so many different titles, that they have earned editorial

consideration.The first paper has the generic title “Information Theory, Photosynthesis and Religion”

(title courtesy of D. A. Huffman), and is written by an engineer of physicist. It

discusses the surprisingly close relationship between the vocabulary and conceptual

framework of information theory and that of psychology (or genetics, or linguistics, or

psychiatry, or business organization). It is pointed out that the concepts of

structure, pattern, entropy, noise, transmitter, receiver, and code are (when properly

interpreted) central to both. Having placed the discipline of psychology for the first

time on a sound scientific bas, the author modestly leaves the filling in of the

outline to the psychologists. He has, of course, read up on the field in preparation

for writing the paper, and has a firm grasp of the essentials, but he has been anxious

not to clutter his mind with such details as the state of knowledge in the field, what

the central problems are; how they are being attacked, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.There is a constructive alternative for the author of this paper. If he is willing to

give up larceny for a life of honest toil, he can find a competent psychologist and

spend several years at intensive mutual education, leading to productive joint

research. But this has some disadvantages from his point of view. First, Psychology

would not be placed on a sound scientific base for several extra years. Second, he

might find himself, as so many have, diverted from the broader questions, wasting his

time on problems whose only merit is that they are vitally important, unsolved, and in

need of interdisciplinary effort. In fact, he might spend so much time solving such

problems that psychology never would be placed on a sound scientific base.The second paper is typically called “The Optimum Linear Mean Square Filter for

Separating Sinusoidally Modulated Triangular Signals from Randomly Sampled Stationary

Gaussian Noise, with Applications to a Problem in Radar.” The details vary from version

to version, but the initial physical problem has as its major interest its obvious

nonlinearity. An effective discussion of this problem would require some really new

thinking of a difficult sort, so the author quickly substitutes an unrelated linear

problem which is more amenable to analysis. He treats this irrelevant linear problem in

a very general way, and by a triumph of analytical technique is able to present its

solution, not quite in closed form, but as the solution to an integral equation whose

kernel is the solution of another bivariate integral equation. He notes that the

problem is now in a form in which standard numerical analysis techniques, and one of

the micromicrosecond computers which people are now beginning to discuss, can provide

detailed answers to specific questions. Many authors might rest here (in fact, many

do), but ours wants real insight into the character of the results. By carefully taking

limits and investigating asymptotic behavior he succeeds in showing that in a few very

special cases (which include all those which have any conceivable application or offer

any significant insight) the results of this analysis agree with the results of the

Wiener-Lee-Zadeh-Raggazzini theory — the very results, indeed, which Wiener, Lee,

Zadeh, and Raggazzini obtained years before.These two papers have been written — and even published — often enough by now.

I suggest that we stop writing them, and release a large supply of manpower to work on

the exciting and important problems which need investigation.

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