June 18, 2020 On a cold morning in August 2015, I narrowly missed a train to my office in Melbourne city. With nothing else to do in the next 20 minutes, my mind wandered towards an intuitive view of complex numbers, something that has puzzled me since long. In particular, I wanted to seek answers to the following questions. (a) What is the role of the number $\sqrt{-1}$ in mathematics? What sets it apart from other impossible numbers, e.g., a number $k$ such that $|k|=-1$? (The origins of this question might lie in how I cut apple slices for my

Continue reading## The Reason Why the Monty Hall Problem Continues to Perplex Everyone

The Monty Hall problem is an interesting puzzle loosely based on an American TV game show Let’s Make a Deal hosted by Monty Hall. While the puzzle looked simple, it perplexed some of the brightest mathematical minds in the United States, including the great Paul Erdös who was one of the most prolific mathematicians of the 20th century. This continues to be the case today. I looked upon a number of references to find the source of confusion in the Monty Hall problem but failed. All I found was different solutions. Therefore, I built one myself with the usual from

Continue reading## FMCW Radar Part 1 – Ranging

This is Part 1 of a 3-Part series in which we describe how an FMCW radar finds the range of multiple stationary targets. In Part 2, we talk about estimating the velocities of several moving targets and their directions through forming a structure known as the radar cube. Part 3 presents system design guidelines for an FMCW radar. In his book Multirate Signal Processing, Fred Harris mentions a great problem solving technique: "When faced with an unsolvable problem, change it into one you can solve, and solve that one instead." We will see in this article how an FMCW radar

Continue reading## How Automatic Gain Control (AGC) Works

Alfred North Whitehead said, "Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them." In today’s world, it is easy to take no notice of the level of process automation integrated into our lives. To have an idea of how things were in the early days, signal processing technology to sort out the radar picture on a map was not available and only a dot or a line could be generated on the screen representing a detected target. A radar operator had to stare at a screen for their whole shift to raise

Continue reading## Design of a Discrete-Time Differentiator

Many signal processing algorithms require computation of the derivative of a signal in real-time. Some of the examples are timing recovery, carrier frequency synchronization, FM demodulation and demodulation of LoRa signals. An analog or digital filter that computes such a derivative is known as a differentiator. Before we design such a discrete-time differentiating filter, let us review some of the fundamentals. A Derivative The following quote is attributed to Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, from 535 BC. Change is the only constant in life. This was brought into the realm of science by Newton and Leibniz. The purpose of science is

Continue reading## Noise is Not Always the Enemy

Noise is usually considered the main enemy in all DSP applications. As David Tse once said: “Noise is the reason for our existence (communication engineers)!” This short article briefly describes why noise sometimes plays a positive role, e.g., in the context of analog-to-digital conversion when the signal is very weak. Introduction Noise is the enemy to be conquered, particularly in communications and radar systems. In a noise-limited regime, we hit a performance brick wall due to the presence of noise. Think of parameter estimation in which the primary criteria is to establish a certain performance against a target signal-to-noise ratio.

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