## Critic and Skeptic Roundup

“That was excellently observed,” say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.
– Jonathan Swift

A big part of the CSP Blog in the past couple years has been a critical analysis of relevant engineering literature. By ‘relevant’ I mean relevant to CSP and its main applications of presence detection, modulation recognition, parameter estimation, source separation, and array processing. So I’ve produced many ‘Comments On …’ posts lately, and this tends to solidify my reputation as a critic rather than as a creative engineer. However, the CSP and SPTK posts on the CSP Blog still vastly outnumber the ‘Comments On …’ posts. We’ll see what balance the future brings.

But if you like to see critical reviews of current science, technology, and engineering work, there are others out there doing it much better than me and doing it for much more important topics, such as artificial intelligence, particle physics, cosmology, and social media.

So here in this post I want to introduce you, should you care to view the rest of the post, to other critics that you might enjoy, and might use as a balance against the typically credulous mainstream media and those pundits, bloggers, and YouTubers that do more promoting than analyzing.

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## Epistemic Bubbles: Comments on “Modulation Recognition Using Signal Enhancement and Multi-Stage Attention Mechanism” by Lin, Zeng, and Gong.

Another brick in the wall, another drop in the bucket, another windmill on the horizon …

Let’s talk more about The Cult. No, I don’t mean She Sells Sanctuary, for which I do have considerable nostalgic fondness. I mean the Cult(ure) of Machine Learning in RF communications and signal processing. Or perhaps it is more of an epistemic bubble where there are The Things That Must Be Said and The Unmentionables in every paper and a style of research that is strictly adhered to but that, sadly, produces mostly error and promotes mostly hype. So we have shibboleths, taboos, and norms to deal with inside the bubble.

Time to get on my high horse. She’s a good horse named Ravager and she needs some exercise. So I’m going to strap on my claymore, mount Ravager, and go for a ride. Or am I merely tilting at windmills?

Let’s take a close look at another paper on machine learning for modulation recognition. It uses, uncritically, the DeepSig RML 2016 datasets. And the world and the world, the world drags me down…

Continue reading “Epistemic Bubbles: Comments on “Modulation Recognition Using Signal Enhancement and Multi-Stage Attention Mechanism” by Lin, Zeng, and Gong.”

## ‘Comment of the Month’ on the CSP Blog

Introducing swag for the best CSP-Blog commenters.

The comments that CSP Blog readers have made over the past six years are arguably the most helpful part of the Blog for do-it-yourself CSP practitioners. In those comments, my many errors have been revealed, which then has permitted me to attempt post corrections. Many unclear aspects of a post have been clarified after pondering a reader’s comment. At least one comment has been elevated to a post of its own.

The readership of the CSP Blog has been steadily growing since its inception in 2015, but the ratio of page views to comments remains huge–the vast majority of readers do not comment. This is understandable and perfectly acceptable. I rarely comment on any of the science and engineering blogs that I frequent. Nevertheless, I would like to encourage more commenting and also reward it.

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## What is the Minimum Effort Required to Find ‘Related Work?’: Comments on Some Spectrum-Sensing Literature by N. West [R176] and T. Yucek [R178]

Starts as a personal gripe, but ends with weird stuff from the literature.

During my poking around on arxiv.org the other day (Grrrrr…), I came across some postings by O’Shea et al I’d not seen before, including The Literature [R176]: “Wideband Signal Localization and Spectral Segmentation.”

Huh, I thought, they are probably trying to train a neural network to do automatic spectral segmentation that is superior to my published algorithm (My Papers [32]). Yeah, no. I mean yes to a machine, no to nods to me. Let’s take a look.

Continue reading “What is the Minimum Effort Required to Find ‘Related Work?’: Comments on Some Spectrum-Sensing Literature by N. West [R176] and T. Yucek [R178]”

## Blog Notes and Preview

May 2022 saw 6026 page views at the CSP Blog, a new monthly record!

Thanks so much to all my readers, new and old, signal processors and machine learners, commenters and lurkers.

My next non-ranty post is on frequency-shift (FRESH) filtering. I will go over cyclic Wiener filtering (The Literature [R6]), which is optimal FRESH filtering, and then describe some interesting puzzles and problems with CW filtering, which may form the seeds of some solid signal-processing research projects of the academic sort.

## Elegy for a Dying Field: Comments on “Detection of Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum Signals Based on Deep Learning,” by F. Wei et al

Black-box thinking is degrading our ability to connect effects to causes.

I’m learning, slowly because I’m stubborn and (I know it is hard to believe) optimistic, that there is no bottom. Signal processing and communications theory and practice are being steadily degraded in the world’s best (and worst of course) peer-reviewed journals.

I saw the accepted paper in the post title (The Literature [R177]) and thought this could be better than most of the machine-learning modulation-recognition papers I’ve reviewed. It takes a little more effort to properly understand and generate direct-sequence spread-spectrum (DSSS) signals, and the authors will likely focus on the practical case where the inband SNR is low. Plus there are lots of connections to CSP. But no. Let’s take a look.

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## Some Concrete Results on Generalization in Modulation Recognition using Machine Learning

Neural networks with I/Q data as input do not generalize in the modulation-recognition problem setting.

Update May 20, 2022: Here is the arxiv.org link.

Back in 2018 I posted a dataset consisting of 112,000 I/Q data files, 32,768 samples in length each, as a part of a challenge to machine learners who had been making strong claims of superiority over signal processing in the area of automatic modulation recognition. One part of the challenge was modulation recognition involving eight digital modulation types, and the other was estimating the carrier frequency offset. That dataset is described here, and I’d like to refer to it as CSPB.ML.2018.

Then in 2022 I posted a companion dataset to CSPB.ML.2018 called CSPB.ML.2022. This new dataset uses the same eight modulation types, similar ranges of SNR, pulse type, and symbol rate, but the random variable that governs the carrier frequency offset is different with respect to the random variable in CSPB.ML.2018. The purpose of the CSPB.ML.2022 dataset is to facilitate studies of the dataset-shift, or generalization, problem in machine learning.

Throughout the past couple of years I’ve been working with some graduate students and a professor at Old Dominion University on merging machine learning and signal processing for problems involving RF signal analysis, such as modulation recognition. We are starting to publish a sequence of papers that describe our efforts. I briefly describe the results of one such paper, My Papers [51], in this post.

Continue reading “Some Concrete Results on Generalization in Modulation Recognition using Machine Learning”

## A Great American Science Writer: Lee Smolin

While reading a book on string theory for lay readers, I did a double take…

I don’t know why I haven’t read any of Lee Smolin’s physics books prior to this year, but I haven’t. Maybe blame my obsession with Sean Carroll. In any case, I’ve been reading The Trouble with Physics (The Literature [R175]), which is about string theory and string theorists. Smolin finds it troubling that the string theorist subculture in physics shows some signs of groupthink and authoritarianism. Perhaps elder worship too.

I came across this list of attributes, conceived by Smolin, of the ‘sociology’ of the string-theorist contingent:

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## The Domain Expertise Trap

The softwarization of engineering continues apace…

I keep seeing people write things like “a major disadvantage of the technique for X is that it requires substantial domain expertise.” Let’s look at a recent good paper that makes many such remarks and try to understand what it could mean, and if having or getting domain expertise is actually a bad thing. Spoiler: It isn’t.

The paper under the spotlight is The Literature [R174], “Interference Suppression Using Deep Learning: Current Approaches and Open Challenges,” published for the nonce on arxiv.org. I’m not calling this post a “Comments On …” post, because once I extract the (many) quotes about domain expertise, I’m leaving the paper alone. The paper is a good paper and I expect it to be especially useful for current graduate students looking to make a contribution in the technical area where machine learning and RF signal processing overlap. I especially like Figure 1 and the various Tables.

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## Wow, Elsevier, Just … Wow. Comments On “Cyclic Correntropy: Properties and the Application in Symbol Rate Estimation Under Alpha-Stable Distributed Noise,” by S. Luan et al.

Can we fix peer review in engineering by some form of payment to reviewers?

Let’s talk about another paper about cyclostationarity and correntropy. I’ve critically reviewed two previously, which you can find here and here. When you look at the correntropy as applied to a cyclostationary signal, you get something called cyclic correntropy, which is not particularly useful except if you don’t understand regular cyclostationarity and some aspects of garden-variety signal processing. Then it looks great.

But this isn’t a post that primarily takes the authors of a paper to task, although it does do that. I want to tell the tale to get us thinking about what ‘peer’ could mean, these days, in ‘peer-reviewed paper.’ How do we get the best peers to review our papers?

Let’s take a look at The Literature [R173].

Continue reading “Wow, Elsevier, Just … Wow. Comments On “Cyclic Correntropy: Properties and the Application in Symbol Rate Estimation Under Alpha-Stable Distributed Noise,” by S. Luan et al.”

## SPTK: Sampling and The Sampling Theorem

The basics of how to convert a continuous-time signal into a discrete-time signal without losing information in the process. Plus, how the choice of sampling rate influences CSP.

Previous SPTK Post: Random Processes Next SPTK Post: TBD

In this Signal Processing ToolKit post we take a close look at the basic sampling theorem used daily by signal-processing engineers. Application of the sampling theorem is a way to choose a sampling rate for converting an analog continuous-time signal to a digital discrete-time signal. The former is ubiquitous in the physical world–for example all the radio-frequency signals whizzing around in the air and through your body right now. The latter is ubiquitous in the computing-device world–for example all those digital-audio files on your Discman Itunes Ipod DVD Smartphone Cloud Neuralink Singularity.

So how are those physical real-world analog signals converted to convenient lists of finite-precision numbers that we can apply arithmetic to? For that’s all [digital or cyclostationary] signal processing is at bottom: arithmetic. You might know the basic rule-of-thumb for choosing a sampling rate: Make sure it is at least twice as big as the largest frequency component in the analog signal undergoing the sampling. But why, exactly, and what does ‘largest frequency component’ mean?

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## Update on J. Antoni’s Fast Spectral Correlation Estimator

Let’s take a look at an even faster spectral correlation function estimator. How useful is it for CSP applications in communications?

Reader Gideon pointed out that Antoni had published a paper a year after the paper that I considered in my first Antoni post. This newer paper, The Literature [R172], promises a faster fast spectral correlation estimator, and it delivers on that according to the analysis in the paper. However, I think the faster fast spectral correlation estimator is just as limited as the slower fast spectral correlation estimator when considered in the context of communication-signal processing.

And, to be fair, Antoni doesn’t often consider the context of communication-signal processing. His favored application is fault detection in mechanical systems with rotating parts. But I still don’t think the way he compares his fast and faster estimators to conventional estimators is fair. The reason is that his estimators are both severely limited in the maximum cycle frequency that can be processed, relative to the maximum cycle frequency that is possible.

Let’s take a look.

Continue reading “Update on J. Antoni’s Fast Spectral Correlation Estimator”

## Shifted Dataset for the Machine-Learning Challenge: How Well Does a Modulation-Recognition DNN Generalize? [Dataset CSPB.ML.2022]

Another RF-signal dataset to help push along our R&D on modulation recognition.

In this post I provide a second dataset for the Machine-Learning Challenge I issued in 2018 (CSPB.ML.2018). This dataset is similar to the original dataset, but possesses a key difference in that the probability distribution of the carrier-frequency offset parameter, viewed as a random variable, is not the same, but is still realistic.

Blog Note: By WordPress’ count, this is the 100th post on the CSP Blog. Together with a handful of pages (like My Papers and The Literature), these hundred posts have resulted in about 250,000 page views. That’s an average of 2,500 page views per post. However, the variance of the per-post pageviews is quite large. The most popular is The Spectral Correlation Function (> 16,000) while the post More on Pure and Impure Sinewaves, from the same era, has only 316 views. A big Thanks to all my readers!!

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## One Last Time …

We take a quick look at a fourth DeepSig dataset called 2016.04C.multisnr.tar.bz2 in the context of the data-shift problem in machine learning.

And if we get this right,

We’re gonna teach ’em how to say

Goodbye …

You and I.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, “One Last Time,” Hamilton

I didn’t expect to have to do this, but I am going to analyze yet another DeepSig dataset. One last time. This one is called 2016.04C.multisnr.tar.bz2, and is described thusly on the DeepSig website:

I’ve analyzed the 2018 dataset here, the RML2016.10b.tar.bz2 dataset here, and the RML2016.10a.tar.bz2 dataset here.

Now I’ve come across a manuscript-in-review in which both the RML2016.10a and RML2016.04c data sets are used. The idea is that these two datasets represent two sufficiently distinct datasets so that they are good candidates for use in a data-shift study involving trained neural-network modulation-recognition systems.

The data-shift problem is, as one researcher puts it:

Data shift or data drift, concept shift, changing environments, data fractures are all similar terms that describe the same phenomenon: the different distribution of data between train and test sets

Georgios Sarantitis

But … are they really all that different?

Continue reading “One Last Time …”

## Comments on “Proper Definition and Handling of Dirac Delta Functions” by C. Candan.

An interesting paper on the true nature of the impulse function we use so much in signal processing.

The impulse function, also called the Dirac delta function, is commonly used in statistical signal processing, and on the CSP Blog (examples: representations and transforms). I think we’re a bit casual about this usage, and perhaps none of us understand impulses as well as we might.

Enter C. Candan and The Literature [R155].

Continue reading “Comments on “Proper Definition and Handling of Dirac Delta Functions” by C. Candan.”

## Wave Walker DSP: A New Kind of Engineering Blog

A colleague has started up a website with lots of content on digital signal processing: Wave Walker DSP. This is, to me, a new kind of engineering blog in that it blends DSP mathematics and practice with philosophy. That’s an intriguing complement to my engineering blog, which I view as blending DSP mathematics with criticism.

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## The Principal Domain for the Spectral Correlation Function

What are the ranges of spectral frequency and cycle frequency that we need to consider in a discrete-time/discrete-frequency setting for CSP?

Let’s talk about that diamond-shaped region in the $(f, \alpha)$ plane we so often see associated with CSP. I’m talking about the principal domain for the discrete-time/discrete-frequency spectral correlation function. Where does it come from? Why do we care? When does it come up?

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## J. Antoni’s Fast Spectral Correlation Estimator

The Fast Spectral Correlation estimator is a quick way to find small cycle frequencies. However, its restrictions render it inferior to estimators like the SSCA and FAM.

In this post we take a look at an alternative CSP estimator created by J. Antoni et al (The Literature [R152]). The paper describing the estimator can be found here, and you can get some corresponding MATLAB code, posted by the authors, here if you have a Mathworks account.

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## SPTK (and CSP): Random Processes

The merging of conventional probability theory with signal theory leads to random processes, also known as stochastic processes. The ideas involved with random processes are central to cyclostationary signal processing.

Previous SPTK Post: Examples of Random Variables Next SPTK Post: The Sampling Theorem

In this Signal Processing ToolKit post, I provide an introduction to the concept and use of random processes (also called stochastic processes). This is my perspective on random processes, so although I’ll introduce and use the conventional concepts of stationarity and ergodicity, I’ll end up focusing on the differences between stationary and cyclostationary random processes. The goal is to illustrate those differences with informative graphics and videos; to build intuition in the reader about how the cyclostationarity property comes about, and about how the property relates to the more abstract mathematical object of a random process on one hand and to the concrete data-centric signal on the other.

So … this is the first SPTK post that is also a CSP post.

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