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Oral-History:David Middleton (2007)

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== About David Middleton<br> ==
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== About David Middleton<br> ==
  
This is a follow-up to an interview first conducted in 2000. Middleton discusses his current writing project and explains how it has expanded from an article to a 1300-page book. The book is a reference text in Physics which he calls a “primer.” He hopes it will have applications across many related fields and be of special interest to graduate students and post-docs. Middleton discusses changes in science education and the training of graduate students, as well as shortcomings in the early-career development of some engineers. Explains the importance of knowing about past research and building on that work. Interview ends with discussion about the value of oral history and speculation about the future of telecommunications.
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This is a 2007 follow-up to [[Oral-History:David Middleton (2000)|David Middleton Oral History (2000)]]. Middleton discusses his current writing project and explains how it has expanded from an article to a 1300-page book. The book is a reference text in Physics which he calls a “primer.” He hopes it will have applications across many related fields and be of special interest to graduate students and post-docs. Middleton discusses changes in science education and the training of graduate students, as well as shortcomings in the early-career development of some engineers. He explains the importance of knowing about past research and building on that work. The interview ends with discussion of the value of oral history and speculation about the future of telecommunications.  
  
== About the Interview<br> ==
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For further information on Middleton's career and research, see [[Oral-History:David Middleton (2000)|David Middleton Oral History (2000)]]. This initial interview covers Middleton's academic and consulting careers, as well as his involvement in the IEEE. Middleton describes some of his research approaches and considers the future of communication theory, a topic he revisits in this 2007 interview.
  
DAVID MIDDLETON: An Interview Conducted by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, 6 August 2007
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== About the Interview ==
  
<br>Interview #473 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
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DAVID MIDDLETON: An Interview Conducted by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, 6 August 2007
  
== Copyright Statement<br> ==
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Interview #473 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
  
This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.<br><br>
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== Copyright Statement  ==
  
Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user. <br><br>
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This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.  
  
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:<br>David Middleton, an oral history conducted in 2007 by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.<br>
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Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:  
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David Middleton, an oral history conducted in 2007 by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.  
  
 
== Interview  ==
 
== Interview  ==
  
Interviewee: David Middleton<br>Interviewer: Michael Geselowitz<br>Date: 6 August 2007<br>Location: New York, NY<br>
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Interviewee: David Middleton  
  
'''<br>'''
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Interviewer: Michael Geselowitz
  
=== Discussion of material covered in 2000 interview ===
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Date: 6 August 2007
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Location: New York, NY
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=== Discussion of material covered in 2000 interview ===
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
This is Michael Geselowitz from the IEEE History Center, and I’m here in New York City at the home of David Middleton. I had done an Oral History Interview with David seven and a half years ago or so, and I’ve come back to New York to follow-up with him. So, David, if I may, I’d like to start with some of the things you said when we last spoke that you saw in the future. And the first is at that time you did not have a laptop and were not connected to the Internet, and I was wondering if you ever did so?<br>
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This is Michael Geselowitz from the IEEE History Center, and I’m here in New York City at the home of David Middleton. [[Oral-History:David Middleton (2000)|I had done an Oral History Interview with David seven and a half years ago or so]], and I’ve come back to New York to follow-up with him. So, David, if I may, I’d like to start with some of the things you said when we last spoke that you saw in the future. And the first is at that time you did not have a laptop and were not connected to the Internet, and I was wondering if you ever did so?  
 
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
The answer is no, I don’t think that a computer is a substitute for thought. However, I hasten to add that the computer is a marvelous tool properly used; it’s actually indispensable for advanced research in all fields. But still it’s you and I and, not the lamp post, it’s got to be a thinking human person, that’s indispensable.<br>
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The answer is no, I don’t think that a computer is a substitute for thought. However, I hasten to add that the computer is a marvelous tool properly used; it’s actually indispensable for advanced research in all fields. But still it’s you and I and, not the lamp post, it’s got to be a thinking human person, that’s indispensable.  
 
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
That’s a very good point.<br>
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That’s a very good point.  
 
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
So, while I get a little itchy about the fact that I’m a dinosaur, but don’t forget that dinosaurs lived for maybe 300 million years in one form or another, so I’m not exactly obsolete yet.<br>
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So, while I get a little itchy about the fact that I’m a dinosaur, but don’t forget that dinosaurs lived for maybe 300 million years in one form or another, so I’m not exactly obsolete yet.  
  
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
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'''Geselowitz: '''  
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Great. I also understand from current biological thinking that the dinosaurs are still around in the form of birds, so in that sense…<br>
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'''<br>'''
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Great. I also understand from current biological thinking that the dinosaurs are still around in the form of birds, so in that sense…
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
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Yes.  
  
<br>
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'''Geselowitz:'''
 
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<span style="font-weight: bold;">Geselowitz:</span>
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So the next thing I want to do is when I left you last, you were undertaking a major book project, and I was wondering how that was coming. If you could remind us of the background and explain how it’s coming.<br>
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So the next thing I want to do is when I left you last, you were undertaking a major book project, and I was wondering how that was coming. If you could remind us of the background and explain how it’s coming.  
  
=== Book project for the American Institute of Physics<br> ===
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=== Book project for the American Institute of Physics  ===
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, the book started out at as a long paper, so this is the evolution of a “Monsterpiece.” It evolved from a 50-page article into a short, 300-page book for the American Institute of Physics. Then something happened. I decided well, I’d like this to be more explanatory and cover more fields, and the next thing I knew it’s going to be 1300 pages!<br>
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Well, the book started out at as a long paper, so this is the evolution of a “Monsterpiece.” It evolved from a 50-page article into a short, 300-page book for the American Institute of Physics. Then something happened. I decided well, I’d like this to be more explanatory and cover more fields, and the next thing I knew it’s going to be 1300 pages!  
 
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
What is now the scope of the book, would you say? Could you define the scope for us?<br>
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What is now the scope of the book, would you say? Could you define the scope for us?  
 
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
I can let you see in more detail my initial forward. I wrote a forward and it’s been typed up and has to be corrected. I’ll try and explain briefly. It has four parts to it; that’s my aim. The first part is Statistical Communication Theory itself, mainly it is statistics tied into the communication area, which is not the same as the usual statistical fields. The second part is devoted to the physics of the channel. The third part is for the one thing we can solve generally, performance of systems, which involves weak signals and noise whether the noise is additive or multiplicative. There is an extensive amount of material on what I did earlier. It was in reports for one of the government agencies. Then the fourth part is special topics and some exotic material. That’s a quick summary. My introduction is more detailed, roughly 13 printed pages, but that’s the basic scope of it. Special topics also include Quantum Mechanics in communications, so I have to go re-learn my Quantum Mechanics, which I studied 60 years ago—that’s a long time. Anyway, the foundations haven’t changed. That’s why I’m taking so much time, because I really have to learn things, not just reissue the material and order it. So, that in a nutshell, an all-too-small nutshell, is a brief history of what the project is about. I’m about 60% through it all. <br>
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I can let you see in more detail my initial forward. I wrote a forward and it’s been typed up and has to be corrected. I’ll try and explain briefly. It has four parts to it; that’s my aim. The first part is Statistical Communication Theory itself, mainly it is statistics tied into the communication area, which is not the same as the usual statistical fields. The second part is devoted to the physics of the channel. The third part is for the one thing we can solve generally, performance of systems, which involves weak signals and noise whether the noise is additive or multiplicative. There is an extensive amount of material on what I did earlier. It was in reports for one of the government agencies. Then the fourth part is special topics and some exotic material. That’s a quick summary. My introduction is more detailed, roughly 13 printed pages, but that’s the basic scope of it. Special topics also include Quantum Mechanics in communications, so I have to go re-learn my Quantum Mechanics, which I studied 60 years ago—that’s a long time. Anyway, the foundations haven’t changed. That’s why I’m taking so much time, because I really have to learn things, not just reissue the material and order it. So, that in a nutshell, an all-too-small nutshell, is a brief history of what the project is about. I’m about 60% through it all.  
 
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Oh, that’s not bad.<br>
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Oh, that’s not bad.  
 
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, I’m hoping to finish by 2010, when the Institute will get the disk. It’s recorded on disk; my typist supplies that. (I’m up-to-date through my typist!) I have a very fine bunch of typists who are clearly modern in this respect. So this terrible problem of transcribing handwritten notes to typing has been solved. So, what the publisher does with it—the editing—will probably take a year, so 2010 or 2011, somewhere in there, is the likely publication date.<br>
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Well, I’m hoping to finish by 2010, when the Institute will get the disk. It’s recorded on disk; my typist supplies that. (I’m up-to-date through my typist!) I have a very fine bunch of typists who are clearly modern in this respect. So this terrible problem of transcribing handwritten notes to typing has been solved. So, what the publisher does with it—the editing—will probably take a year, so 2010 or 2011, somewhere in there, is the likely publication date.  
 
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Okay. Now that the 30 page article has grown to be a 1300 page book with small print, I hope lots of pictures though…<br>
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Okay. Now that the 30 page article has grown to be a 1300 page book with small print, I hope lots of pictures though…  
 
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Oh, yes, lots of pictures.<br>
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Oh, yes, lots of pictures.  
 
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
What do you view it as? Do you view it as a textbook, and handbook, what’s your perception of the use of it?<br>
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What do you view it as? Do you view it as a textbook, and handbook, what’s your perception of the use of it?  
 
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
To answer that, I think one has to say what’s the audience (using that word loosely). The audience is post-doctoral students, certainly advanced graduate students, there are many of those—not too many but there is a considerable number. So it’s really a reference book, and like my other book could be used in a course of the same kind of attendance. It’s the kind of book I hope that libraries will buy and that individuals who are interested will also buy. And I think there is interest out there, even though the field has expanded so much! I’m just looking at a problem of transmitting from A to B. The channel, coupling to the median, the channel, that’s where the physics comes in, and the reception process. We’ve got all kinds of papers coming out for a number of years now on complicated expansions of multiple signals, input/output, all that sort of thing. So in a sense it’s a primer for post-PhDs. <br>
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To answer that, I think one has to say what’s the audience (using that word loosely). The audience is post-doctoral students, certainly advanced graduate students, there are many of those—not too many but there is a considerable number. So it’s really a reference book, and like my other book could be used in a course of the same kind of attendance. It’s the kind of book I hope that libraries will buy and that individuals who are interested will also buy. And I think there is interest out there, even though the field has expanded so much! I’m just looking at a problem of transmitting from A to B. The channel, coupling to the median, the channel, that’s where the physics comes in, and the reception process. We’ve got all kinds of papers coming out for a number of years now on complicated expansions of multiple signals, input/output, all that sort of thing. So in a sense it’s a primer for post-PhDs.  
  
 
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=== Paradigm shifts in the communications field ===
=== Paradigm shifts in the communications field ===
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Okay. Now, you just mentioned that you’re going to brush up on your Quantum Physics for the special applications, and I’d like to know a little more about that. When we met the last time, we talked a little bit, maybe because of the Harvard connection, about Thomas Kuhn, an historian of science, and the idea of paradigms and specifically applying that to the Communications field. In your opinion, have there been any paradigm shifts, so to speak, since we spoke last?<br>
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Okay. Now, you just mentioned that you’re going to brush up on your Quantum Physics for the special applications, and I’d like to know a little more about that. When we met the last time, we talked a little bit, maybe because of the Harvard connection, about Thomas Kuhn, an historian of science, and the idea of paradigms and specifically applying that to the Communications field. In your opinion, have there been any paradigm shifts, so to speak, since we spoke last?  
 
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
It depends on how you define “paradigm shift”. I would say the main focus of attention now has shifted to the transfer of probability concepts to communication problems. In Quantum Mechanics there is a very peculiar kind of probability: the wave function as a square root of a probability. In Communication, Probability Theory is devoted to space-time processing, so it’s a four-dimensional problem. What else could I add to that?<br>
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It depends on how you define “paradigm shift”. I would say the main focus of attention now has shifted to the transfer of probability concepts to communication problems. In Quantum Mechanics there is a very peculiar kind of probability: the wave function as a square root of a probability. In Communication, Probability Theory is devoted to space-time processing, so it’s a four-dimensional problem. What else could I add to that?  
 
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
No, that really is interesting that previously Probability had not been part of Communications Theory, and that it wasn’t even relatively recently. So that leads to the next question that I had about catching up with you after the time since the last interview, which is how do you keep current? Since you’re writing a book that’s going to be a guidebook, apparently an up-to-the-minute guidebook, I was wondering if you wanted to say something about that. First of all, you had mentioned last time about the importance of attending conferences, particularly IEEE conferences, so I was wondering if you’d say something about conferences and also publications that are important for you to do your work?<br>
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No, that really is interesting that previously Probability had not been part of Communications Theory, and that it wasn’t even relatively recently. So that leads to the next question that I had about catching up with you after the time since the last interview, which is how do you keep current? Since you’re writing a book that’s going to be a guidebook, apparently an up-to-the-minute guidebook, I was wondering if you wanted to say something about that. First of all, you had mentioned last time about the importance of attending conferences, particularly IEEE conferences, so I was wondering if you’d say something about conferences and also publications that are important for you to do your work?  
 
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, for me the publications are the most important now. I’ve attended a lot of conferences, but in the last maybe two or three years that’s dropped off by my choice. I’m going to attend one on Noise Theory at Princeton in November and that will be marshalling my facts and fancies for that kind of meeting. I don’t know how much time they’ll allow. Woodrow Wilson said, “I can make a 100 minute speech anytime you want me to off of the cuff, but a five minute speech needs two days of preparation.” You’ve got to worry about that factor. I’m not allowed to bloviate too much and stretch the session leader’s patience.<br>
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Well, for me the publications are the most important now. I’ve attended a lot of conferences, but in the last maybe two or three years that’s dropped off by my choice. I’m going to attend one on Noise Theory at Princeton in November and that will be marshalling my facts and fancies for that kind of meeting. I don’t know how much time they’ll allow. Woodrow Wilson said, “I can make a 100 minute speech anytime you want me to off of the cuff, but a five minute speech needs two days of preparation.” You’ve got to worry about that factor. I’m not allowed to bloviate too much and stretch the session leader’s patience.  
 
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right.<br>
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Right.  
 
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
I had one thought about the last question. The question is up-to-date-ness. I’d like to think that this kind of stuff has earned a certain permanence. You have to go through it and the rest is building on that, and that’s what I’m trying to do is write something that will last. My first book is still in print and it’s been 50 years almost. It has small sales every year, but my publisher Wiley hasn’t abandoned it.<br>
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I had one thought about the last question. The question is up-to-date-ness. I’d like to think that this kind of stuff has earned a certain permanence. You have to go through it and the rest is building on that, and that’s what I’m trying to do is write something that will last. My first book is still in print and it’s been 50 years almost. It has small sales every year, but my publisher Wiley hasn’t abandoned it.  
 
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
And is that because you’re interested in the fundamental mathematics?<br>  
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<flashmp3>473 - middleton - clip 1.mp3</flashmp3>
  
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And is that because you’re interested in the fundamental mathematics?
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, the fundamental physics. But my mathematics is largely 19th Century mathematics. Actually, Quantum Mechanics involves 19th Century Mathematics, through it’s the use of Group Theory, among other things, and a lot of purely mathematical devices have been found to be useful in explaining the physics. So, it’s physics first and mathematics afterwards. Of course, I live in a world which is divided; well, it’s not really divided now, it’s joint—the boundaries between physics and engineering are very blurred at this point. The engineer takes a discovery; he comes back with a tool that is magnificent, with which the physicist can do things with and vice versa. So it used to be a five-year turn around or a ten-year turn around, now it’s maybe a few months. You see that in Physics Today, the magazine. I can read most of articles there because they’re explained for the general physical public. It emphasizes the interdisciplinary character.<br>
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Well, the fundamental physics. But my mathematics is largely 19th Century mathematics. Actually, Quantum Mechanics involves 19th Century Mathematics, through it’s the use of Group Theory, among other things, and a lot of purely mathematical devices have been found to be useful in explaining the physics. So, it’s physics first and mathematics afterwards. Of course, I live in a world which is divided; well, it’s not really divided now, it’s joint—the boundaries between physics and engineering are very blurred at this point. The engineer takes a discovery; he comes back with a tool that is magnificent, with which the physicist can do things with and vice versa. So it used to be a five-year turn around or a ten-year turn around, now it’s maybe a few months. You see that in Physics Today, the magazine. I can read most of articles there because they’re explained for the general physical public. It emphasizes the interdisciplinary character.  
 
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Now, do you see that personally as are we moving to interdisciplinarity because of the underlying fundamental physics—that there is one universe, one unified field theory—or do you feel it’s just that things have gotten complicated so you need to look at it from more directions? In other words, is there an underlying, fundamental principal?<br>
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Now, do you see that personally as are we moving to interdisciplinarity because of the underlying fundamental physics—that there is one universe, one unified field theory—or do you feel it’s just that things have gotten complicated so you need to look at it from more directions? In other words, is there an underlying, fundamental principal?  
  
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=== Interdisciplinarity and computers ===
 
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=== Interdisciplinarity and computers ===
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, let’s put it this way: the basic physical ideas are the same in the communication and engineering applications. How you view it, through what depth and what detail depends on how it’s used. I started to say that the mathematics that I use is standard 19th Century mathematics, matrices and all that sort of stuff. But one of the differences is now we can do these things on the computer. They can diagonalize a 50 by 50, or 100, or 1,000 by 1,000 matrix—that is, get the Eigenvalues—on a computer; maybe even on a laptop now. Before it was a great deal of drudgery—before being 30 years ago, maybe 40. So the computer is right there ready to be used. The problem for the computer, for these problems, most of them, is software now. The hardware is magnificent, but the software is the difficult thing, especially when you have 100 million lines of software. Mistakes are made in that. I know because I’ve been consulting with the Navy in New London and Newport. They were complaining about the three million lines of instructions for the submarines. It’s all boggles the mind. I’d hate to be the poor engineers that have to set that one up. But that’s what goes with the power of the computer.<br>
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Well, let’s put it this way: the basic physical ideas are the same in the communication and engineering applications. How you view it, through what depth and what detail depends on how it’s used. I started to say that the mathematics that I use is standard 19th Century mathematics, matrices and all that sort of stuff. But one of the differences is now we can do these things on the computer. They can diagonalize a 50 by 50, or 100, or 1,000 by 1,000 matrix—that is, get the Eigenvalues—on a computer; maybe even on a laptop now. Before it was a great deal of drudgery—before being 30 years ago, maybe 40. So the computer is right there ready to be used. The problem for the computer, for these problems, most of them, is software now. The hardware is magnificent, but the software is the difficult thing, especially when you have 100 million lines of software. Mistakes are made in that. I know because I’ve been consulting with the Navy in New London and Newport. They were complaining about the three million lines of instructions for the submarines. It’s all boggles the mind. I’d hate to be the poor engineers that have to set that one up. But that’s what goes with the power of the computer.  
 
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Even though you haven’t adopted the power of the computer yourself personally, your book assumes that the practitioners that are going to use your theory, that are going to build a new theory to do practical applications, will have computers at their fingertips?<br>
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Even though you haven’t adopted the power of the computer yourself personally, your book assumes that the practitioners that are going to use your theory, that are going to build a new theory to do practical applications, will have computers at their fingertips?  
 
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, what I’d like to see is a sequel, a relatively small one, of the programs that give numerical answers for these things generally. Oh, I get a lot of numerical answers out of this, but it’s incomplete. But you have to show numbers, and numbers are the ultimate test. Numbers, and you go back to the physical situation to see if the numbers make sense. So that aspect is mentioned quite a good deal in my forward to the book, and various places throughout. I don’t want people just to look at the beautiful formulas, well I do, but they want to be able to do something with them. That’s what they’re there for. <br>
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Well, what I’d like to see is a sequel, a relatively small one, of the programs that give numerical answers for these things generally. Oh, I get a lot of numerical answers out of this, but it’s incomplete. But you have to show numbers, and numbers are the ultimate test. Numbers, and you go back to the physical situation to see if the numbers make sense. So that aspect is mentioned quite a good deal in my forward to the book, and various places throughout. I don’t want people just to look at the beautiful formulas, well I do, but they want to be able to do something with them. That’s what they’re there for.  
 
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Interesting. You say the numbers have to make sense. Is there a problem for communications engineering that the people writing the code are not necessarily the engineers who know what a sensible number should look like?<br>
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Interesting. You say the numbers have to make sense. Is there a problem for communications engineering that the people writing the code are not necessarily the engineers who know what a sensible number should look like?  
 
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
I did some consulting for Lawrence Livermore, and I worked with the chap who used the computer; he was an engineer/physicist actually, he’s not just solely a computer expert. But he was complaining about the young people. I sound like gray beard here [chuckles]. But they would compute anything—they love computing. But the problem is they didn’t know whether it made any sense on the other end. That’s a crude way of putting it, but you really have to have a background in the problem; you can’t just compute by yourself and get anywhere. So, did I answer the question?<br>
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I did some consulting for Lawrence Livermore, and I worked with the chap who used the computer; he was an engineer/physicist actually, he’s not just solely a computer expert. But he was complaining about the young people. I sound like gray beard here [chuckles]. But they would compute anything—they love computing. But the problem is they didn’t know whether it made any sense on the other end. That’s a crude way of putting it, but you really have to have a background in the problem; you can’t just compute by yourself and get anywhere. So, did I answer the question?  
 
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Yes.<br>
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Yes.  
 
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
You pressed a button.<br>
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You pressed a button.  
 
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I know, and I’m glad I did, because I think a lot of people are worrying about this now. So the obvious follow-up question is, is there something our educational system could be doing better to either get computer scientists to know more physics, or get the physicists to be able to write the code themselves, or some combination?<br>
+
I know, and I’m glad I did, because I think a lot of people are worrying about this now. So the obvious follow-up question is, is there something our educational system could be doing better to either get computer scientists to know more physics, or get the physicists to be able to write the code themselves, or some combination?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, many physicists do this for their specialty, particularly some of the younger crowd. The simple answer is more time in education. You get that in school, which is the important place first, and then you get it in the work place. Well, maybe you get it in the workplace; it depends on how much freedom you have to “mess around,” as the saying goes. And that’s really viable. I mentioned in the previous interview that the four-year course in engineering is problematic, and that many universities now have a five year undergraduate course; and then of course, the specialties are in addition to that. But even five years is not enough. We rely on, inevitably, the fact that it takes more time, and that means outside experience. If the engineer has a job which is relatively routine, he’s not allowed to play around, as the saying goes, or do research in the real meaning of the word; he’s always going to be stunted in a way. He’s always going to be stuck. That’s my impression. I’m not stuck because I didn’t get involved with a computer. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s a marvelous tool; I keep saying that because I see what it can do. But to coin the phrase again, it’s not a substitute for thought.<br>
+
Well, many physicists do this for their specialty, particularly some of the younger crowd. The simple answer is more time in education. You get that in school, which is the important place first, and then you get it in the work place. Well, maybe you get it in the workplace; it depends on how much freedom you have to “mess around,” as the saying goes. And that’s really viable. I mentioned in the previous interview that the four-year course in engineering is problematic, and that many universities now have a five year undergraduate course; and then of course, the specialties are in addition to that. But even five years is not enough. We rely on, inevitably, the fact that it takes more time, and that means outside experience. If the engineer has a job which is relatively routine, he’s not allowed to play around, as the saying goes, or do research in the real meaning of the word; he’s always going to be stunted in a way. He’s always going to be stuck. That’s my impression. I’m not stuck because I didn’t get involved with a computer. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s a marvelous tool; I keep saying that because I see what it can do. But to coin the phrase again, it’s not a substitute for thought.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Then it may be a structural problem, so there is the issue that you just addressed of what is the curriculum in the schools, but then it’s a question of what’s the structure of our R&amp;D effort, so that a young engineer comes in, and is he given the opportunity to play around or is he forced right away into very narrow development channels given the economics?<br>
+
Then it may be a structural problem, so there is the issue that you just addressed of what is the curriculum in the schools, but then it’s a question of what’s the structure of our R&amp;D effort, so that a young engineer comes in, and is he given the opportunity to play around or is he forced right away into very narrow development channels given the economics?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Yes, it depends on what level he enters and depends on what institution he’s working for. If he’s working for a manufacturer, he’s stuck—my impression is he’s stuck in a relatively small domain. If he’s in a think tank, and of course there are more senior people, he gets more of an education, which is the necessity. You just don’t stop getting educated; you shouldn’t anyway, after you get through with college and graduate school. <br>
+
Yes, it depends on what level he enters and depends on what institution he’s working for. If he’s working for a manufacturer, he’s stuck—my impression is he’s stuck in a relatively small domain. If he’s in a think tank, and of course there are more senior people, he gets more of an education, which is the necessity. You just don’t stop getting educated; you shouldn’t anyway, after you get through with college and graduate school.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Well, as you said, you’re still educating yourself as you write your book, so you haven’t stopped either.<br>
+
Well, as you said, you’re still educating yourself as you write your book, so you haven’t stopped either.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Oh, I’m stubborn. It’s hard for me, but then, learning something new is a bit of a task, but it’s worth it. It’s a great deal of satisfaction. <br>
+
Oh, I’m stubborn. It’s hard for me, but then, learning something new is a bit of a task, but it’s worth it. It’s a great deal of satisfaction.  
  
 +
=== Energy in communications  ===
  
=== Energy in communications ===
+
'''Middleton:'''
  
'''Middleton:'''
+
I was adding on to one of my chapters and I had a thought that we should talk about energy. I know we’re going to talk about that, I talk about fields for example, four dimensional fields—what’s the energy in the field? That’s an old question actually; you can find statements and books and so forth and results. I looked at that and it’s a big deal, and I learned how to calculate it. That little section of chapter eight has blossomed out to 15 to 20 printed pages and it’s now a separate item to that chapter. That’s just a little example of the kind of back tracking I have to do.  
 
+
I was adding on to one of my chapters and I had a thought that we should talk about energy. I know we’re going to talk about that, I talk about fields for example, four dimensional fields—what’s the energy in the field? That’s an old question actually; you can find statements and books and so forth and results. I looked at that and it’s a big deal, and I learned how to calculate it. That little section of chapter eight has blossomed out to 15 to 20 printed pages and it’s now a separate item to that chapter. That’s just a little example of the kind of back tracking I have to do.<br>
+
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Since you bring it up I’m just kind of curious, what is the specific practical Communications application that makes it important to know the energy of the field?<br>
+
Since you bring it up I’m just kind of curious, what is the specific practical Communications application that makes it important to know the energy of the field?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well I think it reflects on the source and receiver, the physical source and receiver. How much can you expect to put, say, into the water? I’ve done a fair amount of work theoretically with sonar detection and applications like that. How much mechanical energy can you put into the material medium? Or, in a non-material medium, how much electromagnetic energy? It was always a question of being able to transmit enough to the receiver to convey the signal adequately. And of course the channel corrupts everything, more or less. And that’s what my little story is about, my 1300 page story.<br>
+
Well I think it reflects on the source and receiver, the physical source and receiver. How much can you expect to put, say, into the water? I’ve done a fair amount of work theoretically with sonar detection and applications like that. How much mechanical energy can you put into the material medium? Or, in a non-material medium, how much electromagnetic energy? It was always a question of being able to transmit enough to the receiver to convey the signal adequately. And of course the channel corrupts everything, more or less. And that’s what my little story is about, my 1300 page story.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I remember even last time you were telling me about the book being in the planning stages, that the channel was going to be the focus around which you were going to be able to hang the other aspects of the theory.
+
I remember even last time you were telling me about the book being in the planning stages, that the channel was going to be the focus around which you were going to be able to hang the other aspects of the theory.  
 
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
The channel, the coupling to it, the antennae arrays and so forth like that, because they are definitely a major part of this. They are the spatial counterpart of the space-time operation. And the process, you see, with space you can gain additional samples, so this is a reason by people to use large antennas, thinking in relationship to the wavelength, they can get more data that’s relevant. Now, you can’t always do that. You’re constrained by restraints—size, mobility, weight. But that’s one of the ideas.<br>
+
The channel, the coupling to it, the antennae arrays and so forth like that, because they are definitely a major part of this. They are the spatial counterpart of the space-time operation. And the process, you see, with space you can gain additional samples, so this is a reason by people to use large antennas, thinking in relationship to the wavelength, they can get more data that’s relevant. Now, you can’t always do that. You’re constrained by restraints—size, mobility, weight. But that’s one of the ideas.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Okay, great. That’s very illuminating. I was wondering what else you’d like to tell us about that you’ve been up to recently. I know that you brought some materials with you, and I’d like to hear about that. <br>
+
Okay, great. That’s very illuminating. I was wondering what else you’d like to tell us about that you’ve been up to recently. I know that you brought some materials with you, and I’d like to hear about that.  
  
<br>
+
=== Mark Bykhovskiy and the history of communications  ===
  
=== Mark Bykhovskiy and the history of communications ===
 
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
I’m going to lend you this book. You probably have the facilities to copy it. The book is in Russian by a fellow named Dr. Mark Bykhovskiy, and it’s called Pioneri Informatzionnogo Vyeka, which translates into English as “Pioneers of the Informational Era.”<br>
+
I’m going to lend you this book. You probably have the facilities to copy it. The book is in Russian by a fellow named Dr. Mark Bykhovskiy, and it’s called Pioneri Informatzionnogo Vyeka, which translates into English as “Pioneers of the Informational Era.”  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
And this was published in Russia in when?<br>
+
And this was published in Russia in when?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Recently, just a year ago. There are biographies of all we so-called pioneers, and pictures—here is Claude Shannon, for example.<br>
+
Recently, just a year ago. There are biographies of all we so-called pioneers, and pictures—here is [[Claude Shannon|Claude Shannon]], for example.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Thank you very much.<br>
+
Thank you very much.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
And a lot of other people contributed too.<br>
+
And a lot of other people contributed too.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
What we may do is use our contacts with the IEEE Russia section to see if they can get us an actual bound copy for our library, and otherwise we’d be grateful to be able to copy that ourselves.<br>
+
What we may do is use our contacts with the [[IEEE Russia Section History|IEEE Russia section]] to see if they can get us an actual bound copy for our library, and otherwise we’d be grateful to be able to copy that ourselves.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Yes, take it on an indefinite loan.<br>
+
Yes, take it on an indefinite loan.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Thank you. Yes, I see the publication information on the title page—2006, Technosphera Moskva. So, it was published in Moscow just last year. Excellent, thank you very much. We appreciate that.<br>
+
Thank you. Yes, I see the publication information on the title page—2006, Technosphera Moskva. So, it was published in Moscow just last year. Excellent, thank you very much. We appreciate that.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Bykhovskiy is a historian of the field, as well as an engineer. He knows technology, and he’s picked up on this. It’s the only book of its kind that I’ve seen.<br>
+
Bykhovskiy is a historian of the field, as well as an engineer. He knows technology, and he’s picked up on this. It’s the only book of its kind that I’ve seen.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
And you’re here on page 105, I see.<br>
+
And you’re here on page 105, I see.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Apparently. He did an article for his journal earlier, and I’m going to give you that, too. It’s similar to the article in the book.<br>
+
Apparently. He did an article for his journal earlier, and I’m going to give you that, too. It’s similar to the article in the book.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Have you traveled to Russia to meet him?<br>
+
Have you traveled to Russia to meet him?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
I’ve not met him. I know his daughter over the telephone; she speaks excellent English with a nice Russian accent. She’s a student of finance—she’s out to make her million.<br>
+
I’ve not met him. I know his daughter over the telephone; she speaks excellent English with a nice Russian accent. She’s a student of finance—she’s out to make her million.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
And her father’s just a poor academic?<br>
+
And her father’s just a poor academic?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
I don’t know. He’s up in the middle echelon, a little higher than that perhaps, in the scientific community, but I have no idea of the salary structure. I wouldn’t ask. He has a fair amount of responsibility, and she’s over here working. She’s got an arbitrageur job, apparently. I’ve talked with her occasionally on the phone, but I’ve not met her and I’ve not met him either. There is a photograph of him in the paper I gave you. Here is some other stuff from my folder that I’m going to give you in addition to the Bykhovskiy article. My estimate is he is 45 to 50, something like that.<br>
+
I don’t know. He’s up in the middle echelon, a little higher than that perhaps, in the scientific community, but I have no idea of the salary structure. I wouldn’t ask. He has a fair amount of responsibility, and she’s over here working. She’s got an arbitrageur job, apparently. I’ve talked with her occasionally on the phone, but I’ve not met her and I’ve not met him either. There is a photograph of him in the paper I gave you. Here is some other stuff from my folder that I’m going to give you in addition to the Bykhovskiy article. My estimate is he is 45 to 50, something like that.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Now I’m curious—in your book do you deal at all with the history of the field?<br>
+
Now I’m curious—in your book do you deal at all with the history of the field?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
I try to touch on it. It’s not an historical thing, but you do point out who some of the people are in the course of referring to their work, and I will have quite a few references in the book to specific articles—perhaps 2,000 of them. There is so much out there, and that brings up a problem which I don’t know if you want to discuss now or later—the problem of information overload, let’s put it that way. Almost total information overload. I don’t have a computer, but when my friend looked me up and other people on the computer, and topics of how many papers there, some of them are just fantastic in the number of hits and the number of papers. The question is how do you select the ones that are really-- I’d say they’re all presumed good until otherwise, which is not, of course, presumed innocent, but how do you select the one out of 100 that is important? And perhaps the one out of those hundreds that is truly important. The only way you can do it, I think, is by experience, because we have to make the choice. With the computer you can put in the characteristics of the good paper and then search on that basis, but that’s a pretty tough job. And even when you do it, my criterion and your criterion are different to some extent, sometimes considerably. So it’s an insolvable problem that we have to solve and do the best we can, is my opinion; I could be wrong.<br>
+
I try to touch on it. It’s not an historical thing, but you do point out who some of the people are in the course of referring to their work, and I will have quite a few references in the book to specific articles—perhaps 2,000 of them. There is so much out there, and that brings up a problem which I don’t know if you want to discuss now or later—the problem of information overload, let’s put it that way. Almost total information overload. I don’t have a computer, but when my friend looked me up and other people on the computer, and topics of how many papers there, some of them are just fantastic in the number of hits and the number of papers. The question is how do you select the ones that are really-- I’d say they’re all presumed good until otherwise, which is not, of course, presumed innocent, but how do you select the one out of 100 that is important? And perhaps the one out of those hundreds that is truly important. The only way you can do it, I think, is by experience, because we have to make the choice. With the computer you can put in the characteristics of the good paper and then search on that basis, but that’s a pretty tough job. And even when you do it, my criterion and your criterion are different to some extent, sometimes considerably. So it’s an insolvable problem that we have to solve and do the best we can, is my opinion; I could be wrong.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
=== Directions for future telecommunications research  ===
 
=== Directions for future telecommunications research  ===
Line 401: Line 295:
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Do you see a direction that you think we should be looking for a solution just personally based on your vast experience? At least in your particular field, let’s just say.<br>
+
Do you see a direction that you think we should be looking for a solution just personally based on your vast experience? At least in your particular field, let’s just say.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Yes. This leads to another topic that I was going to discuss—the role of Communication Theory. It’s absolutely essential to all science. In fact, it permeates all science, including physics. Not mathematics. Mathematics is the one science that is self-contained, in a sense. It’s not logically impervious, as Gödel pointed out, but it is as close to that as anything that mankind has invented. In many cases for all of the physical sciences, mathematics is essential. Basically we’re interrogating nature, or we’re listening to what nature is broadcasting. It’s as simple as that; it’s as obvious as that. I won’t apologize for the obviousness. But it means that the field that I’m in has an important application to many fields. <br>
+
Yes. This leads to another topic that I was going to discuss—the role of Communication Theory. It’s absolutely essential to all science. In fact, it permeates all science, including physics. Not mathematics. Mathematics is the one science that is self-contained, in a sense. It’s not logically impervious, as Gödel pointed out, but it is as close to that as anything that mankind has invented. In many cases for all of the physical sciences, mathematics is essential. Basically we’re interrogating nature, or we’re listening to what nature is broadcasting. It’s as simple as that; it’s as obvious as that. I won’t apologize for the obviousness. But it means that the field that I’m in has an important application to many fields.  
  
<br>
+
That’s one of the things that I’m trying to stress. I’m only covering from one Hertz to about 1013 Hertz, which is where matter is still continuous. Above 1013 we begin to get into the particle nature of solids, and eventually we have the quantum effects at the higher frequencies. In my book I discuss the quantum work of Carl Helstrom, who is a well-known in the field. I think he’s retired now, if he’s still alive. I don’t know. I think he is.  
 
+
That’s one of the things that I’m trying to stress. I’m only covering from one Hertz to about 1013 Hertz, which is where matter is still continuous. Above 1013 we begin to get into the particle nature of solids, and eventually we have the quantum effects at the higher frequencies. In my book I discuss the quantum work of Carl Helstrom, who is a well-known in the field. I think he’s retired now, if he’s still alive. I don’t know. I think he is.<br>
+
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I don’t know, but I’ll look it up after the interview. [Interviewer’s note: As of the date of the interview, Carl S. Helstrom was still alive, and a Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at the University of California at San Diego.]<br>
+
I don’t know, but I’ll look it up after the interview. [Interviewer’s note: As of the date of the interview, Carl S. Helstrom was still alive, and a Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at the University of California at San Diego.]  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, he’s well known. He wrote a book on the work he did in one year in Paris on quantum detection and estimation. I plan to plow my way through that and pick out the-- (I’m not going to write another book; I’m just going to maybe have a small section on that stuff)—enough so that people can understand it. At least people who are motivated by particular applications. So that it’s there.<br>
+
Well, he’s well known. He wrote a book on the work he did in one year in Paris on quantum detection and estimation. I plan to plow my way through that and pick out the-- (I’m not going to write another book; I’m just going to maybe have a small section on that stuff)—enough so that people can understand it. At least people who are motivated by particular applications. So that it’s there.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
==== Quantum computing  ====
 
==== Quantum computing  ====
Line 431: Line 315:
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Now then, to continue this thing, the breakthroughs are coming. I mean you’ve got quantum computing. They don’t know how to do it yet, but they are close. Actually, a better way to put it is that they know how they can do it in theory, but apparently the stability of real-world systems is tricky, very tricky. You’ve got to get the state right and keep it there long enough, and so forth. That’s all I know about it. I’ve got some popular articles that I think I can understand. They’re in ''Physics Today'' as well as in IEEE journals. So I think that’s one of the coming fields. <br>
+
Now then, to continue this thing, the breakthroughs are coming. I mean you’ve got quantum computing. They don’t know how to do it yet, but they are close. Actually, a better way to put it is that they know how they can do it in theory, but apparently the stability of real-world systems is tricky, very tricky. You’ve got to get the state right and keep it there long enough, and so forth. That’s all I know about it. I’ve got some popular articles that I think I can understand. They’re in ''Physics Today'' as well as in IEEE journals. So I think that’s one of the coming fields.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Actually—I won’t swear to this-- I believe the IEEE either just started or is about to start a whole separate journal on quantum computing. <br>
+
Actually—I won’t swear to this-- I believe the IEEE either just started or is about to start a whole separate journal on quantum computing.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
And that I’d like to see. <br>
+
And that I’d like to see.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
==== Interdisciplinary relevance of communications principles  ====
 
==== Interdisciplinary relevance of communications principles  ====
Line 451: Line 329:
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Just because the field has gotten so large. And, as you say, communication underlies all the physical sciences and of course in engineering.<br>
+
Just because the field has gotten so large. And, as you say, communication underlies all the physical sciences and of course in engineering.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
In the broad sense. <br>
+
In the broad sense.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
In the broad sense. I guess the obvious question is do you make that point in your book? And do you think maybe your book will be of broader interest when people come to realize these underlying principles—that even if you’re a radio astronomer or whatever you are, you are still dealing with signals and channels and noise?<br>
+
In the broad sense. I guess the obvious question is do you make that point in your book? And do you think maybe your book will be of broader interest when people come to realize these underlying principles—that even if you’re a radio astronomer or whatever you are, you are still dealing with signals and channels and noise?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
I hope so. I say that in the introduction, and I probably will say it in the conclusions when I write those. The introduction stresses the point that the basic communication application is getting a signal through a medium, and the interaction with the medium causes the noise, the scattering, the works. Other people’s signals, for example, can interfere with the communication. That’s the simple-minded description of what I’m trying to do. <br>
+
I hope so. I say that in the introduction, and I probably will say it in the conclusions when I write those. The introduction stresses the point that the basic communication application is getting a signal through a medium, and the interaction with the medium causes the noise, the scattering, the works. Other people’s signals, for example, can interfere with the communication. That’s the simple-minded description of what I’m trying to do.  
  
<br>
+
Now that’s why I only pick one channel, and do a fairly complete picture of that. And occasionally I talk about multiple signals or multiple repeat signals and things like that, but that is treated extensively in current studies, largely with gaussian noise backgrounds. The idea is that the underlying principles of communication are applicable to all science. Now, of course, that’s not at all new. You still have to think of interrogating nature or you’re listening to it, or however you do it. If you’re an astrophysicist, there you’re pretty much listening to the noise left over from the Big Bang, for example. In other areas you’re communicating. You send the signal out and it comes back a little bit older, maybe a lot older (in astronomy). In other areas your signals are corrupted by noise, and you seek the best way to overcome or mitigate it, to recover a useable signal. So the ideas are fairly simple. The trick is in the execution, right?  
 
+
Now that’s why I only pick one channel, and do a fairly complete picture of that. And occasionally I talk about multiple signals or multiple repeat signals and things like that, but that is treated extensively in current studies, largely with gaussian noise backgrounds. The idea is that the underlying principles of communication are applicable to all science. Now, of course, that’s not at all new. You still have to think of interrogating nature or you’re listening to it, or however you do it. If you’re an astrophysicist, there you’re pretty much listening to the noise left over from the Big Bang, for example. In other areas you’re communicating. You send the signal out and it comes back a little bit older, maybe a lot older (in astronomy). In other areas your signals are corrupted by noise, and you seek the best way to overcome or mitigate it, to recover a useable signal. So the ideas are fairly simple. The trick is in the execution, right? <br>
+
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. “The devil is in the details,” as they say. But it’s interesting, because of course all of the sciences, which were originally collectively called natural philosophy, arose together. You look at a figure like a Newton or these early people or even as late as the 18th century with Franklin, and they’re looking at all of these aspects, and we’ve learned so much and gotten so complicated that everyone is specialized. There’s the old joke about a PhD learning more and more about less and less until he knew everything about nothing.<br>
+
Right. “The devil is in the details,” as they say. But it’s interesting, because of course all of the sciences, which were originally collectively called natural philosophy, arose together. You look at a figure like a Newton or these early people or even as late as the 18th century with Franklin, and they’re looking at all of these aspects, and we’ve learned so much and gotten so complicated that everyone is specialized. There’s the old joke about a PhD learning more and more about less and less until he knew everything about nothing.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, it’s like medicine. You go to a specialist and he sends you to another specialist. Of course the resources were much more limited then. In the old days you went to one doctor, and maybe he consulted with one specialist. <br>
+
Well, it’s like medicine. You go to a specialist and he sends you to another specialist. Of course the resources were much more limited then. In the old days you went to one doctor, and maybe he consulted with one specialist.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. So your book and your thought gives maybe a way to bring some unity back, for people to think, to remember that there’s underlying physical reality that binds all these things together. <br>
+
Right. So your book and your thought gives maybe a way to bring some unity back, for people to think, to remember that there’s underlying physical reality that binds all these things together.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Yes, I think the average physicist probably has more of an inkling of this in his specialty, but he may forget this general principal. I mean it’s so obvious, and I feel somewhat guilty about pointing it out. But it took me a long while to really comprehend it. I mean, if you look at the idea after the fact, then it’s obvious. But it’s made obvious in a way by the progress of the experimentalists who have devised instruments, engineers, and some physicists for example. And chemists as well. (I include chemistry here, as well as the other physical disciplines, obviously. So I hope people will pay attention. <br>
+
Yes, I think the average physicist probably has more of an inkling of this in his specialty, but he may forget this general principal. I mean it’s so obvious, and I feel somewhat guilty about pointing it out. But it took me a long while to really comprehend it. I mean, if you look at the idea after the fact, then it’s obvious. But it’s made obvious in a way by the progress of the experimentalists who have devised instruments, engineers, and some physicists for example. And chemists as well. (I include chemistry here, as well as the other physical disciplines, obviously. So I hope people will pay attention.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I hope so. That’s fascinating. <br>
+
I hope so. That’s fascinating.  
  
I know you had a couple of other points you wanted to make sure that we covered. Do you want to check your notes and make sure we’re not forgetting anything critical? <br>
+
I know you had a couple of other points you wanted to make sure that we covered. Do you want to check your notes and make sure we’re not forgetting anything critical?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, I’ve talked probably too much about the role of communication theory.<br>
+
Well, I’ve talked probably too much about the role of communication theory.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
But that is sort of your specialty for which you’re known. <br>
+
But that is sort of your specialty for which you’re known.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, my point is it may be a specialty, but it’s a generality, too. <br>
+
Well, my point is it may be a specialty, but it’s a generality, too.  
  
 
=== Contemporary scientists' lack of familiarity with earlier literature  ===
 
=== Contemporary scientists' lack of familiarity with earlier literature  ===
  
'''Middleton:'''
+
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Oh, I’d like to say something. I probably said something about it before, this question of the education of our engineers and scientists. <br>
+
Oh, I’d like to say something. I probably said something about it before, this question of the education of our engineers and scientists.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Yes, that’s a very important point. <br>
+
Yes, that’s a very important point.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Take the engineers for example. I subscribe to a lot of the IEEE journals, and of the ones I’m reading now, two or three are on information theory and signal processing, for example. These journals require a referencing system. The young PhDs or people who are getting their PhD and so forth, the young assistant professors and so on, are publishing—you know, the old publish and perish idea—and the referencing goes back 10 years. Let’s be more generous, say 15. Say 1990 to the present. Then before that there are very few papers listed. These young scholars have lots of references—30, 40 references in many papers. But they don’t go back more than 15 years. I mean, these scholars are four generations from me. Let’s say I’m defining a generation educationally, and for this is 15 years. In 60 years from when I first graduated—it was about 60 years ago today, something like that—there have been at least four generations of engineers, and I imagine scientists as well. But graduate students are mainly taught by the younger professors, cutting their teeth on the teaching. That’s fair, but it creates a shifting image. The 15-year window slides like that. And so the past gets largely forgotten—not completely but largely. A few of the outstanding discoveries and inventions are of course recognized, but even they are not mentioned explicitly. They’re taken for granted. So I worry about that, not that I can do much about it. <br>
+
Take the engineers for example. I subscribe to a lot of the IEEE journals, and of the ones I’m reading now, two or three are on information theory and signal processing, for example. These journals require a referencing system. The young PhDs or people who are getting their PhD and so forth, the young assistant professors and so on, are publishing—you know, the old publish and perish idea—and the referencing goes back 10 years. Let’s be more generous, say 15. Say 1990 to the present. Then before that there are very few papers listed. These young scholars have lots of references—30, 40 references in many papers. But they don’t go back more than 15 years. I mean, these scholars are four generations from me. Let’s say I’m defining a generation educationally, and for this is 15 years. In 60 years from when I first graduated—it was about 60 years ago today, something like that—there have been at least four generations of engineers, and I imagine scientists as well. But graduate students are mainly taught by the younger professors, cutting their teeth on the teaching. That’s fair, but it creates a shifting image. The 15-year window slides like that. And so the past gets largely forgotten—not completely but largely. A few of the outstanding discoveries and inventions are of course recognized, but even they are not mentioned explicitly. They’re taken for granted. So I worry about that, not that I can do much about it.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Well, that’s one role of the IEEE’s history operation, and that’s in part why we’re here interviewing you, because you have the memories. <br>
+
Well, that’s one role of the IEEE’s history operation, and that’s in part why we’re here interviewing you, because you have the memories.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, I’m complaining. <br>
+
Well, I’m complaining.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
No, you know, you’re right to complain, and we’re with you. We wish we had more resources from IEEE to do even more of it. I know of an example. My father happens to also be a Life Fellow of the IEEE; he’s in the engineering in medicine and biology field. And there was some debate going on the field, which I don’t pretend to understand, about the zero potential of the body or something. My father found a paper by Helmholtz from the 19th century that had never been translated into English. It was in German, and Helmholtz dealt with the same problem. He didn’t quite have the mathematical tools, but he basically pointed the right direction to settle this argument, and people had forgotten it. <br>
+
No, you know, you’re right to complain, and we’re with you. We wish we had more resources from IEEE to do even more of it. I know of an example. My father happens to also be a [[IEEE Fellow Grade History|Life Fellow]] of the IEEE; he’s in the engineering in medicine and biology field. And there was some debate going on the field, which I don’t pretend to understand, about the zero potential of the body or something. My father found a paper by Helmholtz from the 19th century that had never been translated into English. It was in German, and Helmholtz dealt with the same problem. He didn’t quite have the mathematical tools, but he basically pointed the right direction to settle this argument, and people had forgotten it.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, and along that line there is the famous study of noise, over the last century, as a Professor Cohen pointed out in a recent article in the journal of the IEEE Signal Processing Society, this is one of the main subjects of my effort. Maybe you saw Professor Cohen’s paper. It’s an approximately 30-page article on the history of noise. It points out that Einstein used noise to prove the existence of atoms. It’s that recent in a way—I mean 1905 was Einstein’s miracle year. Take a look at the Cohen article. I think you’ll have fun reading it, because it’s very readable. <br>
+
Well, and along that line there is the famous study of noise, over the last century, as a Professor Cohen pointed out in a recent article in the journal of the [[IEEE Signal Processing Society History|IEEE Signal Processing Society]], this is one of the main subjects of my effort. Maybe you saw Professor Cohen’s paper. It’s an approximately 30-page article on the history of noise. It points out that Einstein used noise to prove the existence of atoms. It’s that recent in a way—I mean 1905 was Einstein’s miracle year. Take a look at the Cohen article. I think you’ll have fun reading it, because it’s very readable.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I will. But actually it’s interesting because you raise this point, and then I asked you how much history was in your book, and you said, well, you did if you mentioned a name like so-and-so’s principle you would explain who the person was, and a few things like that. But you’re advocating for more historical knowledge and whatever, but your book is already 1300 pages without being a history book. So I guess that’s the balance you have to maintain. <br>
+
I will. But actually it’s interesting because you raise this point, and then I asked you how much history was in your book, and you said, well, you did if you mentioned a name like so-and-so’s principle you would explain who the person was, and a few things like that. But you’re advocating for more historical knowledge and whatever, but your book is already 1300 pages without being a history book. So I guess that’s the balance you have to maintain.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, the first thing you do is you try to refer to the principle papers that are germane at that point in the book. Obviously they are not all equally important. They’re all important, but you try to prioritize. I’m referencing stuff that goes back to 1910. There’s the famous discovery of astronomy: that the distribution of stars obeys a three-halves power law. There were a few gems like that, but basically this is stuff dating from 1930, and people were beginning to look at the noise problem from the proactive view of communications. A few papers here and there (mainly from Germans) just before the war, and then that was cut off until we did our work. German science was destroyed by Hitler, of course, and it’s taken a while to come back. There was a big loss in that because they were the leaders pretty much. The French will object, but the Germans were the leaders [laughter]. I mean the French were good too, and you had a good rivalry, because they spurred each other on, but the Germans had more of a reputation for it. At least that’s my impression. Now I’m 296 years old, and so hence the ancient history. <br>  
+
<flashmp3>473 - middleton - clip 2.mp3</flashmp3>
  
<br>
+
Well, the first thing you do is you try to refer to the principle papers that are germane at that point in the book. Obviously they are not all equally important. They’re all important, but you try to prioritize. I’m referencing stuff that goes back to 1910. There’s the famous discovery of astronomy: that the distribution of stars obeys a three-halves power law. There were a few gems like that, but basically this is stuff dating from 1930, and people were beginning to look at the noise problem from the proactive view of communications. A few papers here and there (mainly from Germans) just before the war, and then that was cut off until we did our work. German science was destroyed by Hitler, of course, and it’s taken a while to come back. There was a big loss in that because they were the leaders pretty much. The French will object, but the Germans were the leaders [laughter]. I mean the French were good too, and you had a good rivalry, because they spurred each other on, but the Germans had more of a reputation for it. At least that’s my impression. Now I’m 296 years old, and so hence the ancient history.
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Well, I guess with your knowledge base you wouldn’t be surprised to learn as historians of technology, we still run into these issues of national priority. For example, you probably know that there were at least four inventors of the telephone, and which one you advocate often has to do with your nationality or ethnic background. <br>
+
Well, I guess with your knowledge base you wouldn’t be surprised to learn as historians of technology, we still run into these issues of national priority. For example, you probably know that there were at least four inventors of the telephone, and which one you advocate often has to do with your nationality or ethnic background.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, Gauss was one of them. Bell.<br>
+
Well, Gauss was one of them. [[Alexander Graham Bell|Bell]].  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right, there was Gauss. There was Meucci in Italy. Reis in Germany. <br>
+
Right, there was Gauss. There was [[Antonio Meucci|Meucci]] in Italy. Reis in Germany.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Who was in Japan? <br>
+
Who was in Japan?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I think there must’ve been someone, but I’m not sure who. <br>
+
I think there must’ve been someone, but I’m not sure who.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
These things happen through psychic transfer in a way. I mean radar was invented just before the war, a few years before, by about five different nations. <br>
+
These things happen through psychic transfer in a way. I mean [[Radar|radar]] was invented just before the war, a few years before, by about five different nations.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. Well, I think part of it is that there is communication, and part of it is just that if the physics is at the same level, and some of the technical problems are the same—like let’s say everyone is building railroads, and you need a way to communicate, and everyone has wires and knows about certain things about electromagnetism, they’re going to independently work toward some kind of telegraph system, to take that example. But you have the Wheatstone telegraph versus the Morse telegraph. That’s another example from technical history. <br>
+
Right. Well, I think part of it is that there is communication, and part of it is just that if the physics is at the same level, and some of the technical problems are the same—like let’s say everyone is building railroads, and you need a way to communicate, and everyone has wires and knows about certain things about [[Electromagnetism|electromagnetism]], they’re going to independently work toward some kind of telegraph system, to take that example. But you have the [[Charles Wheatstone|Wheatstone telegraph]] versus the [[Samuel Morse|Morse telegraph]]. That’s another example from technical history.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Yeah, that was 1848, something like that. <br>
+
Yeah, that was 1848, something like that.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Or a little earlier, I think, but in that range. So, is there anything else that you feel we ought to cover? <br>
+
Or a little earlier, I think, but in that range. So, is there anything else that you feel we ought to cover?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
I’ve been bloviating, but I’ve enjoyed it. <br>
+
I’ve been bloviating, but I’ve enjoyed it.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
=== The importance of oral history ===
+
=== The importance of oral history ===
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
No, it’s not bloviation at all. It’s been fascinating. And just to go on the record again, we feel it’s very important for distinguished people like yourself to have a chance to explain the trajectory of their career, because it doesn’t always come out in a series of papers. So, we might have a David Middleton file with a series of he wrote this paper in 1960, and this paper in 1970, and this paper in 1980. But it’s sometimes difficult to get the big picture. Now you actually may be an exceptional case because you’re working on a book, really a capstone book where in the introduction you will presumably have an opportunity to maybe lay this out in some of the ways you’re talking to me. But a lot of scholars and engineers don’t do that, so they’re left with a collection of papers. And oral history gives an opportunity to give them a chance to give the big picture. <br>
+
No, it’s not bloviation at all. It’s been fascinating. And just to go on the record again, we feel it’s very important for distinguished people like yourself to have a chance to explain the trajectory of their career, because it doesn’t always come out in a series of papers. So, we might have a David Middleton file with a series of he wrote this paper in 1960, and this paper in 1970, and this paper in 1980. But it’s sometimes difficult to get the big picture. Now you actually may be an exceptional case because you’re working on a book, really a capstone book where in the introduction you will presumably have an opportunity to maybe lay this out in some of the ways you’re talking to me. But a lot of scholars and engineers don’t do that, so they’re left with a collection of papers. And oral history gives an opportunity to give them a chance to give the big picture.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Oh, I think it’s a very interesting and useful idea. You never can tell a hundred years from now what will really be important. <br>
+
Oh, I think it’s a very interesting and useful idea. You never can tell a hundred years from now what will really be important.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Right. And last time I met with you I only had a tape recorder and now we’re on film, and the vision of the History Committee is that it will be more interesting to future science to actually see the person rather than just hearing their voice or reading a transcript of their voice. Though again, the technology we’re using now, 20 years from now will see so primitive. They’ll say, “I can’t believe they used a video camera. It’s two-dimensional. What were they thinking?” <br>
+
Right. And last time I met with you I only had a tape recorder and now we’re on film, and the vision of the History Committee is that it will be more interesting to future science to actually see the person rather than just hearing their voice or reading a transcript of their voice. Though again, the technology we’re using now, 20 years from now will see so primitive. They’ll say, “I can’t believe they used a video camera. It’s two-dimensional. What were they thinking?”  
 
+
<br>
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
Well, actually, if it’s a movie camera, it’ll be three dimension: time.<br>
+
Well, actually, if it’s a movie camera, it’ll be three dimension: time.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Time, I’m sorry. I take it back. You’re right. It’s three dimensional, but 20 years from now they may have four dimensional methods of recording. So is there anything else you would like to say? <br>
+
Time, I’m sorry. I take it back. You’re right. It’s three dimensional, but 20 years from now they may have four dimensional methods of recording. So is there anything else you would like to say?  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
I’ll undoubtedly think of it afterwards.<br>
+
I’ll undoubtedly think of it afterwards.  
 
+
<br>
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Well, I can always make another trip, but in the meanwhile… <br>
+
Well, I can always make another trip, but in the meanwhile…  
  
 
<br>  
 
<br>  
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
I don’t want you to unnecessarily—it’ll not be that many.<br>
+
I don’t want you to unnecessarily—it’ll not be that many.  
 
+
<br>
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'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I would like to thank you very much for your time, and your hospitality in welcoming us into your home, and bring us up to date on your book. I look forward to seeing the final product. <br>
+
I would like to thank you very much for your time, and your hospitality in welcoming us into your home, and bring us up to date on your book. I look forward to seeing the final product.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
I trust I will live long enough to complete it. There is some doubt in certain corners, but we’ll see.<br>
+
I trust I will live long enough to complete it. There is some doubt in certain corners, but we’ll see.  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
I hope it’s no one in this room who has those doubts. [Chuckles] We have faith that you will.<br>
+
I hope it’s no one in this room who has those doubts. [Chuckles] We have faith that you will.  
 
+
<br>
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
  
It’s good incentive, anyway. What was it that Woody Allen said, “I don’t mind the thought of death, but I just don’t want to be around when it happens.” <br>
+
It’s good incentive, anyway. What was it that Woody Allen said, “I don’t mind the thought of death, but I just don’t want to be around when it happens.”  
 
+
<br>
+
  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
 
'''Geselowitz:'''  
  
Yes. So, thank you very, very much. I appreciate your time.<br>
+
Yes. So, thank you very, very much. I appreciate your time.  
 
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'''Middleton:'''  
 
'''Middleton:'''  
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And I appreciate your time.  
 
And I appreciate your time.  
  
<br><br> <br><br>
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[[Category:People and organizations|Middleton]] [[Category:Scientists|Middleton]] [[Category:Communications|Middleton]] [[Category:Components, circuits, devices & systems|Middleton]] [[Category:Electron devices|Middleton]] [[Category:Quantum computing|Middleton]] [[Category:News|Middleton]]

Revision as of 19:25, 26 March 2012

Contents

About David Middleton

This is a 2007 follow-up to David Middleton Oral History (2000). Middleton discusses his current writing project and explains how it has expanded from an article to a 1300-page book. The book is a reference text in Physics which he calls a “primer.” He hopes it will have applications across many related fields and be of special interest to graduate students and post-docs. Middleton discusses changes in science education and the training of graduate students, as well as shortcomings in the early-career development of some engineers. He explains the importance of knowing about past research and building on that work. The interview ends with discussion of the value of oral history and speculation about the future of telecommunications.

For further information on Middleton's career and research, see David Middleton Oral History (2000). This initial interview covers Middleton's academic and consulting careers, as well as his involvement in the IEEE. Middleton describes some of his research approaches and considers the future of communication theory, a topic he revisits in this 2007 interview.

About the Interview

DAVID MIDDLETON: An Interview Conducted by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, 6 August 2007

Interview #473 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

David Middleton, an oral history conducted in 2007 by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Interview

Interviewee: David Middleton

Interviewer: Michael Geselowitz

Date: 6 August 2007

Location: New York, NY

Discussion of material covered in 2000 interview

Geselowitz:

This is Michael Geselowitz from the IEEE History Center, and I’m here in New York City at the home of David Middleton. I had done an Oral History Interview with David seven and a half years ago or so, and I’ve come back to New York to follow-up with him. So, David, if I may, I’d like to start with some of the things you said when we last spoke that you saw in the future. And the first is at that time you did not have a laptop and were not connected to the Internet, and I was wondering if you ever did so?

Middleton:

The answer is no, I don’t think that a computer is a substitute for thought. However, I hasten to add that the computer is a marvelous tool properly used; it’s actually indispensable for advanced research in all fields. But still it’s you and I and, not the lamp post, it’s got to be a thinking human person, that’s indispensable.

Geselowitz:

That’s a very good point.

Middleton:

So, while I get a little itchy about the fact that I’m a dinosaur, but don’t forget that dinosaurs lived for maybe 300 million years in one form or another, so I’m not exactly obsolete yet.

Geselowitz:

Great. I also understand from current biological thinking that the dinosaurs are still around in the form of birds, so in that sense…

Middleton:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

So the next thing I want to do is when I left you last, you were undertaking a major book project, and I was wondering how that was coming. If you could remind us of the background and explain how it’s coming.

Book project for the American Institute of Physics

Middleton:

Well, the book started out at as a long paper, so this is the evolution of a “Monsterpiece.” It evolved from a 50-page article into a short, 300-page book for the American Institute of Physics. Then something happened. I decided well, I’d like this to be more explanatory and cover more fields, and the next thing I knew it’s going to be 1300 pages!

Geselowitz:

What is now the scope of the book, would you say? Could you define the scope for us?

Middleton:

I can let you see in more detail my initial forward. I wrote a forward and it’s been typed up and has to be corrected. I’ll try and explain briefly. It has four parts to it; that’s my aim. The first part is Statistical Communication Theory itself, mainly it is statistics tied into the communication area, which is not the same as the usual statistical fields. The second part is devoted to the physics of the channel. The third part is for the one thing we can solve generally, performance of systems, which involves weak signals and noise whether the noise is additive or multiplicative. There is an extensive amount of material on what I did earlier. It was in reports for one of the government agencies. Then the fourth part is special topics and some exotic material. That’s a quick summary. My introduction is more detailed, roughly 13 printed pages, but that’s the basic scope of it. Special topics also include Quantum Mechanics in communications, so I have to go re-learn my Quantum Mechanics, which I studied 60 years ago—that’s a long time. Anyway, the foundations haven’t changed. That’s why I’m taking so much time, because I really have to learn things, not just reissue the material and order it. So, that in a nutshell, an all-too-small nutshell, is a brief history of what the project is about. I’m about 60% through it all.

Geselowitz:

Oh, that’s not bad.

Middleton:

Well, I’m hoping to finish by 2010, when the Institute will get the disk. It’s recorded on disk; my typist supplies that. (I’m up-to-date through my typist!) I have a very fine bunch of typists who are clearly modern in this respect. So this terrible problem of transcribing handwritten notes to typing has been solved. So, what the publisher does with it—the editing—will probably take a year, so 2010 or 2011, somewhere in there, is the likely publication date.

Geselowitz:

Okay. Now that the 30 page article has grown to be a 1300 page book with small print, I hope lots of pictures though…

Middleton:

Oh, yes, lots of pictures.

Geselowitz:

What do you view it as? Do you view it as a textbook, and handbook, what’s your perception of the use of it?

Middleton:

To answer that, I think one has to say what’s the audience (using that word loosely). The audience is post-doctoral students, certainly advanced graduate students, there are many of those—not too many but there is a considerable number. So it’s really a reference book, and like my other book could be used in a course of the same kind of attendance. It’s the kind of book I hope that libraries will buy and that individuals who are interested will also buy. And I think there is interest out there, even though the field has expanded so much! I’m just looking at a problem of transmitting from A to B. The channel, coupling to the median, the channel, that’s where the physics comes in, and the reception process. We’ve got all kinds of papers coming out for a number of years now on complicated expansions of multiple signals, input/output, all that sort of thing. So in a sense it’s a primer for post-PhDs.

Paradigm shifts in the communications field

Geselowitz:

Okay. Now, you just mentioned that you’re going to brush up on your Quantum Physics for the special applications, and I’d like to know a little more about that. When we met the last time, we talked a little bit, maybe because of the Harvard connection, about Thomas Kuhn, an historian of science, and the idea of paradigms and specifically applying that to the Communications field. In your opinion, have there been any paradigm shifts, so to speak, since we spoke last?

Middleton:

It depends on how you define “paradigm shift”. I would say the main focus of attention now has shifted to the transfer of probability concepts to communication problems. In Quantum Mechanics there is a very peculiar kind of probability: the wave function as a square root of a probability. In Communication, Probability Theory is devoted to space-time processing, so it’s a four-dimensional problem. What else could I add to that?

Geselowitz:

No, that really is interesting that previously Probability had not been part of Communications Theory, and that it wasn’t even relatively recently. So that leads to the next question that I had about catching up with you after the time since the last interview, which is how do you keep current? Since you’re writing a book that’s going to be a guidebook, apparently an up-to-the-minute guidebook, I was wondering if you wanted to say something about that. First of all, you had mentioned last time about the importance of attending conferences, particularly IEEE conferences, so I was wondering if you’d say something about conferences and also publications that are important for you to do your work?

Middleton:

Well, for me the publications are the most important now. I’ve attended a lot of conferences, but in the last maybe two or three years that’s dropped off by my choice. I’m going to attend one on Noise Theory at Princeton in November and that will be marshalling my facts and fancies for that kind of meeting. I don’t know how much time they’ll allow. Woodrow Wilson said, “I can make a 100 minute speech anytime you want me to off of the cuff, but a five minute speech needs two days of preparation.” You’ve got to worry about that factor. I’m not allowed to bloviate too much and stretch the session leader’s patience.

Geselowitz:

Right.

Middleton:

I had one thought about the last question. The question is up-to-date-ness. I’d like to think that this kind of stuff has earned a certain permanence. You have to go through it and the rest is building on that, and that’s what I’m trying to do is write something that will last. My first book is still in print and it’s been 50 years almost. It has small sales every year, but my publisher Wiley hasn’t abandoned it.

Geselowitz:

And is that because you’re interested in the fundamental mathematics?

Middleton:

Well, the fundamental physics. But my mathematics is largely 19th Century mathematics. Actually, Quantum Mechanics involves 19th Century Mathematics, through it’s the use of Group Theory, among other things, and a lot of purely mathematical devices have been found to be useful in explaining the physics. So, it’s physics first and mathematics afterwards. Of course, I live in a world which is divided; well, it’s not really divided now, it’s joint—the boundaries between physics and engineering are very blurred at this point. The engineer takes a discovery; he comes back with a tool that is magnificent, with which the physicist can do things with and vice versa. So it used to be a five-year turn around or a ten-year turn around, now it’s maybe a few months. You see that in Physics Today, the magazine. I can read most of articles there because they’re explained for the general physical public. It emphasizes the interdisciplinary character.

Geselowitz:

Now, do you see that personally as are we moving to interdisciplinarity because of the underlying fundamental physics—that there is one universe, one unified field theory—or do you feel it’s just that things have gotten complicated so you need to look at it from more directions? In other words, is there an underlying, fundamental principal?

Interdisciplinarity and computers

Middleton:

Well, let’s put it this way: the basic physical ideas are the same in the communication and engineering applications. How you view it, through what depth and what detail depends on how it’s used. I started to say that the mathematics that I use is standard 19th Century mathematics, matrices and all that sort of stuff. But one of the differences is now we can do these things on the computer. They can diagonalize a 50 by 50, or 100, or 1,000 by 1,000 matrix—that is, get the Eigenvalues—on a computer; maybe even on a laptop now. Before it was a great deal of drudgery—before being 30 years ago, maybe 40. So the computer is right there ready to be used. The problem for the computer, for these problems, most of them, is software now. The hardware is magnificent, but the software is the difficult thing, especially when you have 100 million lines of software. Mistakes are made in that. I know because I’ve been consulting with the Navy in New London and Newport. They were complaining about the three million lines of instructions for the submarines. It’s all boggles the mind. I’d hate to be the poor engineers that have to set that one up. But that’s what goes with the power of the computer.

Geselowitz:

Even though you haven’t adopted the power of the computer yourself personally, your book assumes that the practitioners that are going to use your theory, that are going to build a new theory to do practical applications, will have computers at their fingertips?

Middleton:

Well, what I’d like to see is a sequel, a relatively small one, of the programs that give numerical answers for these things generally. Oh, I get a lot of numerical answers out of this, but it’s incomplete. But you have to show numbers, and numbers are the ultimate test. Numbers, and you go back to the physical situation to see if the numbers make sense. So that aspect is mentioned quite a good deal in my forward to the book, and various places throughout. I don’t want people just to look at the beautiful formulas, well I do, but they want to be able to do something with them. That’s what they’re there for.

Geselowitz:

Interesting. You say the numbers have to make sense. Is there a problem for communications engineering that the people writing the code are not necessarily the engineers who know what a sensible number should look like?

Middleton:

I did some consulting for Lawrence Livermore, and I worked with the chap who used the computer; he was an engineer/physicist actually, he’s not just solely a computer expert. But he was complaining about the young people. I sound like gray beard here [chuckles]. But they would compute anything—they love computing. But the problem is they didn’t know whether it made any sense on the other end. That’s a crude way of putting it, but you really have to have a background in the problem; you can’t just compute by yourself and get anywhere. So, did I answer the question?

Geselowitz:

Yes.

Middleton:

You pressed a button.

Geselowitz:

I know, and I’m glad I did, because I think a lot of people are worrying about this now. So the obvious follow-up question is, is there something our educational system could be doing better to either get computer scientists to know more physics, or get the physicists to be able to write the code themselves, or some combination?

Middleton:

Well, many physicists do this for their specialty, particularly some of the younger crowd. The simple answer is more time in education. You get that in school, which is the important place first, and then you get it in the work place. Well, maybe you get it in the workplace; it depends on how much freedom you have to “mess around,” as the saying goes. And that’s really viable. I mentioned in the previous interview that the four-year course in engineering is problematic, and that many universities now have a five year undergraduate course; and then of course, the specialties are in addition to that. But even five years is not enough. We rely on, inevitably, the fact that it takes more time, and that means outside experience. If the engineer has a job which is relatively routine, he’s not allowed to play around, as the saying goes, or do research in the real meaning of the word; he’s always going to be stunted in a way. He’s always going to be stuck. That’s my impression. I’m not stuck because I didn’t get involved with a computer. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s a marvelous tool; I keep saying that because I see what it can do. But to coin the phrase again, it’s not a substitute for thought.

Geselowitz:

Then it may be a structural problem, so there is the issue that you just addressed of what is the curriculum in the schools, but then it’s a question of what’s the structure of our R&D effort, so that a young engineer comes in, and is he given the opportunity to play around or is he forced right away into very narrow development channels given the economics?

Middleton:

Yes, it depends on what level he enters and depends on what institution he’s working for. If he’s working for a manufacturer, he’s stuck—my impression is he’s stuck in a relatively small domain. If he’s in a think tank, and of course there are more senior people, he gets more of an education, which is the necessity. You just don’t stop getting educated; you shouldn’t anyway, after you get through with college and graduate school.

Geselowitz:

Well, as you said, you’re still educating yourself as you write your book, so you haven’t stopped either.

Middleton:

Oh, I’m stubborn. It’s hard for me, but then, learning something new is a bit of a task, but it’s worth it. It’s a great deal of satisfaction.

Energy in communications

Middleton:

I was adding on to one of my chapters and I had a thought that we should talk about energy. I know we’re going to talk about that, I talk about fields for example, four dimensional fields—what’s the energy in the field? That’s an old question actually; you can find statements and books and so forth and results. I looked at that and it’s a big deal, and I learned how to calculate it. That little section of chapter eight has blossomed out to 15 to 20 printed pages and it’s now a separate item to that chapter. That’s just a little example of the kind of back tracking I have to do.

Geselowitz:

Since you bring it up I’m just kind of curious, what is the specific practical Communications application that makes it important to know the energy of the field?

Middleton:

Well I think it reflects on the source and receiver, the physical source and receiver. How much can you expect to put, say, into the water? I’ve done a fair amount of work theoretically with sonar detection and applications like that. How much mechanical energy can you put into the material medium? Or, in a non-material medium, how much electromagnetic energy? It was always a question of being able to transmit enough to the receiver to convey the signal adequately. And of course the channel corrupts everything, more or less. And that’s what my little story is about, my 1300 page story.

Geselowitz:

I remember even last time you were telling me about the book being in the planning stages, that the channel was going to be the focus around which you were going to be able to hang the other aspects of the theory.

Middleton:

The channel, the coupling to it, the antennae arrays and so forth like that, because they are definitely a major part of this. They are the spatial counterpart of the space-time operation. And the process, you see, with space you can gain additional samples, so this is a reason by people to use large antennas, thinking in relationship to the wavelength, they can get more data that’s relevant. Now, you can’t always do that. You’re constrained by restraints—size, mobility, weight. But that’s one of the ideas.

Geselowitz:

Okay, great. That’s very illuminating. I was wondering what else you’d like to tell us about that you’ve been up to recently. I know that you brought some materials with you, and I’d like to hear about that.

Mark Bykhovskiy and the history of communications

Middleton:

I’m going to lend you this book. You probably have the facilities to copy it. The book is in Russian by a fellow named Dr. Mark Bykhovskiy, and it’s called Pioneri Informatzionnogo Vyeka, which translates into English as “Pioneers of the Informational Era.”

Geselowitz:

And this was published in Russia in when?

Middleton:

Recently, just a year ago. There are biographies of all we so-called pioneers, and pictures—here is Claude Shannon, for example.

Geselowitz:

Thank you very much.

Middleton:

And a lot of other people contributed too.

Geselowitz:

What we may do is use our contacts with the IEEE Russia section to see if they can get us an actual bound copy for our library, and otherwise we’d be grateful to be able to copy that ourselves.

Middleton:

Yes, take it on an indefinite loan.

Geselowitz:

Thank you. Yes, I see the publication information on the title page—2006, Technosphera Moskva. So, it was published in Moscow just last year. Excellent, thank you very much. We appreciate that.

Middleton:

Bykhovskiy is a historian of the field, as well as an engineer. He knows technology, and he’s picked up on this. It’s the only book of its kind that I’ve seen.

Geselowitz:

And you’re here on page 105, I see.

Middleton:

Apparently. He did an article for his journal earlier, and I’m going to give you that, too. It’s similar to the article in the book.

Geselowitz:

Have you traveled to Russia to meet him?

Middleton:

I’ve not met him. I know his daughter over the telephone; she speaks excellent English with a nice Russian accent. She’s a student of finance—she’s out to make her million.

Geselowitz:

And her father’s just a poor academic?

Middleton:

I don’t know. He’s up in the middle echelon, a little higher than that perhaps, in the scientific community, but I have no idea of the salary structure. I wouldn’t ask. He has a fair amount of responsibility, and she’s over here working. She’s got an arbitrageur job, apparently. I’ve talked with her occasionally on the phone, but I’ve not met her and I’ve not met him either. There is a photograph of him in the paper I gave you. Here is some other stuff from my folder that I’m going to give you in addition to the Bykhovskiy article. My estimate is he is 45 to 50, something like that.

Geselowitz:

Now I’m curious—in your book do you deal at all with the history of the field?

Middleton:

I try to touch on it. It’s not an historical thing, but you do point out who some of the people are in the course of referring to their work, and I will have quite a few references in the book to specific articles—perhaps 2,000 of them. There is so much out there, and that brings up a problem which I don’t know if you want to discuss now or later—the problem of information overload, let’s put it that way. Almost total information overload. I don’t have a computer, but when my friend looked me up and other people on the computer, and topics of how many papers there, some of them are just fantastic in the number of hits and the number of papers. The question is how do you select the ones that are really-- I’d say they’re all presumed good until otherwise, which is not, of course, presumed innocent, but how do you select the one out of 100 that is important? And perhaps the one out of those hundreds that is truly important. The only way you can do it, I think, is by experience, because we have to make the choice. With the computer you can put in the characteristics of the good paper and then search on that basis, but that’s a pretty tough job. And even when you do it, my criterion and your criterion are different to some extent, sometimes considerably. So it’s an insolvable problem that we have to solve and do the best we can, is my opinion; I could be wrong.

Directions for future telecommunications research

Communication Theory

Geselowitz:

Do you see a direction that you think we should be looking for a solution just personally based on your vast experience? At least in your particular field, let’s just say.

Middleton:

Yes. This leads to another topic that I was going to discuss—the role of Communication Theory. It’s absolutely essential to all science. In fact, it permeates all science, including physics. Not mathematics. Mathematics is the one science that is self-contained, in a sense. It’s not logically impervious, as Gödel pointed out, but it is as close to that as anything that mankind has invented. In many cases for all of the physical sciences, mathematics is essential. Basically we’re interrogating nature, or we’re listening to what nature is broadcasting. It’s as simple as that; it’s as obvious as that. I won’t apologize for the obviousness. But it means that the field that I’m in has an important application to many fields.

That’s one of the things that I’m trying to stress. I’m only covering from one Hertz to about 1013 Hertz, which is where matter is still continuous. Above 1013 we begin to get into the particle nature of solids, and eventually we have the quantum effects at the higher frequencies. In my book I discuss the quantum work of Carl Helstrom, who is a well-known in the field. I think he’s retired now, if he’s still alive. I don’t know. I think he is.

Geselowitz:

I don’t know, but I’ll look it up after the interview. [Interviewer’s note: As of the date of the interview, Carl S. Helstrom was still alive, and a Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at the University of California at San Diego.]

Middleton:

Well, he’s well known. He wrote a book on the work he did in one year in Paris on quantum detection and estimation. I plan to plow my way through that and pick out the-- (I’m not going to write another book; I’m just going to maybe have a small section on that stuff)—enough so that people can understand it. At least people who are motivated by particular applications. So that it’s there.

Quantum computing

Middleton:

Now then, to continue this thing, the breakthroughs are coming. I mean you’ve got quantum computing. They don’t know how to do it yet, but they are close. Actually, a better way to put it is that they know how they can do it in theory, but apparently the stability of real-world systems is tricky, very tricky. You’ve got to get the state right and keep it there long enough, and so forth. That’s all I know about it. I’ve got some popular articles that I think I can understand. They’re in Physics Today as well as in IEEE journals. So I think that’s one of the coming fields.

Geselowitz:

Actually—I won’t swear to this-- I believe the IEEE either just started or is about to start a whole separate journal on quantum computing.

Middleton:

And that I’d like to see.

Interdisciplinary relevance of communications principles

Geselowitz:

Just because the field has gotten so large. And, as you say, communication underlies all the physical sciences and of course in engineering.

Middleton:

In the broad sense.

Geselowitz:

In the broad sense. I guess the obvious question is do you make that point in your book? And do you think maybe your book will be of broader interest when people come to realize these underlying principles—that even if you’re a radio astronomer or whatever you are, you are still dealing with signals and channels and noise?

Middleton:

I hope so. I say that in the introduction, and I probably will say it in the conclusions when I write those. The introduction stresses the point that the basic communication application is getting a signal through a medium, and the interaction with the medium causes the noise, the scattering, the works. Other people’s signals, for example, can interfere with the communication. That’s the simple-minded description of what I’m trying to do.

Now that’s why I only pick one channel, and do a fairly complete picture of that. And occasionally I talk about multiple signals or multiple repeat signals and things like that, but that is treated extensively in current studies, largely with gaussian noise backgrounds. The idea is that the underlying principles of communication are applicable to all science. Now, of course, that’s not at all new. You still have to think of interrogating nature or you’re listening to it, or however you do it. If you’re an astrophysicist, there you’re pretty much listening to the noise left over from the Big Bang, for example. In other areas you’re communicating. You send the signal out and it comes back a little bit older, maybe a lot older (in astronomy). In other areas your signals are corrupted by noise, and you seek the best way to overcome or mitigate it, to recover a useable signal. So the ideas are fairly simple. The trick is in the execution, right?

Geselowitz:

Right. “The devil is in the details,” as they say. But it’s interesting, because of course all of the sciences, which were originally collectively called natural philosophy, arose together. You look at a figure like a Newton or these early people or even as late as the 18th century with Franklin, and they’re looking at all of these aspects, and we’ve learned so much and gotten so complicated that everyone is specialized. There’s the old joke about a PhD learning more and more about less and less until he knew everything about nothing.

Middleton:

Well, it’s like medicine. You go to a specialist and he sends you to another specialist. Of course the resources were much more limited then. In the old days you went to one doctor, and maybe he consulted with one specialist.

Geselowitz:

Right. So your book and your thought gives maybe a way to bring some unity back, for people to think, to remember that there’s underlying physical reality that binds all these things together.

Middleton:

Yes, I think the average physicist probably has more of an inkling of this in his specialty, but he may forget this general principal. I mean it’s so obvious, and I feel somewhat guilty about pointing it out. But it took me a long while to really comprehend it. I mean, if you look at the idea after the fact, then it’s obvious. But it’s made obvious in a way by the progress of the experimentalists who have devised instruments, engineers, and some physicists for example. And chemists as well. (I include chemistry here, as well as the other physical disciplines, obviously. So I hope people will pay attention.

Geselowitz:

I hope so. That’s fascinating.

I know you had a couple of other points you wanted to make sure that we covered. Do you want to check your notes and make sure we’re not forgetting anything critical?

Middleton:

Well, I’ve talked probably too much about the role of communication theory.

Geselowitz:

But that is sort of your specialty for which you’re known.

Middleton:

Well, my point is it may be a specialty, but it’s a generality, too.

Contemporary scientists' lack of familiarity with earlier literature

Middleton:

Oh, I’d like to say something. I probably said something about it before, this question of the education of our engineers and scientists.

Geselowitz:

Yes, that’s a very important point.

Middleton:

Take the engineers for example. I subscribe to a lot of the IEEE journals, and of the ones I’m reading now, two or three are on information theory and signal processing, for example. These journals require a referencing system. The young PhDs or people who are getting their PhD and so forth, the young assistant professors and so on, are publishing—you know, the old publish and perish idea—and the referencing goes back 10 years. Let’s be more generous, say 15. Say 1990 to the present. Then before that there are very few papers listed. These young scholars have lots of references—30, 40 references in many papers. But they don’t go back more than 15 years. I mean, these scholars are four generations from me. Let’s say I’m defining a generation educationally, and for this is 15 years. In 60 years from when I first graduated—it was about 60 years ago today, something like that—there have been at least four generations of engineers, and I imagine scientists as well. But graduate students are mainly taught by the younger professors, cutting their teeth on the teaching. That’s fair, but it creates a shifting image. The 15-year window slides like that. And so the past gets largely forgotten—not completely but largely. A few of the outstanding discoveries and inventions are of course recognized, but even they are not mentioned explicitly. They’re taken for granted. So I worry about that, not that I can do much about it.

Geselowitz:

Well, that’s one role of the IEEE’s history operation, and that’s in part why we’re here interviewing you, because you have the memories.

Middleton:

Well, I’m complaining.

Geselowitz:

No, you know, you’re right to complain, and we’re with you. We wish we had more resources from IEEE to do even more of it. I know of an example. My father happens to also be a Life Fellow of the IEEE; he’s in the engineering in medicine and biology field. And there was some debate going on the field, which I don’t pretend to understand, about the zero potential of the body or something. My father found a paper by Helmholtz from the 19th century that had never been translated into English. It was in German, and Helmholtz dealt with the same problem. He didn’t quite have the mathematical tools, but he basically pointed the right direction to settle this argument, and people had forgotten it.

Middleton:

Well, and along that line there is the famous study of noise, over the last century, as a Professor Cohen pointed out in a recent article in the journal of the IEEE Signal Processing Society, this is one of the main subjects of my effort. Maybe you saw Professor Cohen’s paper. It’s an approximately 30-page article on the history of noise. It points out that Einstein used noise to prove the existence of atoms. It’s that recent in a way—I mean 1905 was Einstein’s miracle year. Take a look at the Cohen article. I think you’ll have fun reading it, because it’s very readable.

Geselowitz:

I will. But actually it’s interesting because you raise this point, and then I asked you how much history was in your book, and you said, well, you did if you mentioned a name like so-and-so’s principle you would explain who the person was, and a few things like that. But you’re advocating for more historical knowledge and whatever, but your book is already 1300 pages without being a history book. So I guess that’s the balance you have to maintain.

Middleton:

Well, the first thing you do is you try to refer to the principle papers that are germane at that point in the book. Obviously they are not all equally important. They’re all important, but you try to prioritize. I’m referencing stuff that goes back to 1910. There’s the famous discovery of astronomy: that the distribution of stars obeys a three-halves power law. There were a few gems like that, but basically this is stuff dating from 1930, and people were beginning to look at the noise problem from the proactive view of communications. A few papers here and there (mainly from Germans) just before the war, and then that was cut off until we did our work. German science was destroyed by Hitler, of course, and it’s taken a while to come back. There was a big loss in that because they were the leaders pretty much. The French will object, but the Germans were the leaders [laughter]. I mean the French were good too, and you had a good rivalry, because they spurred each other on, but the Germans had more of a reputation for it. At least that’s my impression. Now I’m 296 years old, and so hence the ancient history.

Geselowitz:

Well, I guess with your knowledge base you wouldn’t be surprised to learn as historians of technology, we still run into these issues of national priority. For example, you probably know that there were at least four inventors of the telephone, and which one you advocate often has to do with your nationality or ethnic background.

Middleton:

Well, Gauss was one of them. Bell.

Geselowitz:

Right, there was Gauss. There was Meucci in Italy. Reis in Germany.

Middleton:

Who was in Japan?

Geselowitz:

I think there must’ve been someone, but I’m not sure who.

Middleton:

These things happen through psychic transfer in a way. I mean radar was invented just before the war, a few years before, by about five different nations.

Geselowitz:

Right. Well, I think part of it is that there is communication, and part of it is just that if the physics is at the same level, and some of the technical problems are the same—like let’s say everyone is building railroads, and you need a way to communicate, and everyone has wires and knows about certain things about electromagnetism, they’re going to independently work toward some kind of telegraph system, to take that example. But you have the Wheatstone telegraph versus the Morse telegraph. That’s another example from technical history.

Middleton:

Yeah, that was 1848, something like that.

Geselowitz:

Or a little earlier, I think, but in that range. So, is there anything else that you feel we ought to cover?

Middleton:

I’ve been bloviating, but I’ve enjoyed it.

The importance of oral history

Geselowitz:

No, it’s not bloviation at all. It’s been fascinating. And just to go on the record again, we feel it’s very important for distinguished people like yourself to have a chance to explain the trajectory of their career, because it doesn’t always come out in a series of papers. So, we might have a David Middleton file with a series of he wrote this paper in 1960, and this paper in 1970, and this paper in 1980. But it’s sometimes difficult to get the big picture. Now you actually may be an exceptional case because you’re working on a book, really a capstone book where in the introduction you will presumably have an opportunity to maybe lay this out in some of the ways you’re talking to me. But a lot of scholars and engineers don’t do that, so they’re left with a collection of papers. And oral history gives an opportunity to give them a chance to give the big picture.

Middleton:

Oh, I think it’s a very interesting and useful idea. You never can tell a hundred years from now what will really be important.

Geselowitz:

Right. And last time I met with you I only had a tape recorder and now we’re on film, and the vision of the History Committee is that it will be more interesting to future science to actually see the person rather than just hearing their voice or reading a transcript of their voice. Though again, the technology we’re using now, 20 years from now will see so primitive. They’ll say, “I can’t believe they used a video camera. It’s two-dimensional. What were they thinking?”

Middleton:

Well, actually, if it’s a movie camera, it’ll be three dimension: time.

Geselowitz:

Time, I’m sorry. I take it back. You’re right. It’s three dimensional, but 20 years from now they may have four dimensional methods of recording. So is there anything else you would like to say?

Middleton:

I’ll undoubtedly think of it afterwards.

Geselowitz:

Well, I can always make another trip, but in the meanwhile…


Middleton:

I don’t want you to unnecessarily—it’ll not be that many.

Geselowitz:

I would like to thank you very much for your time, and your hospitality in welcoming us into your home, and bring us up to date on your book. I look forward to seeing the final product.

Middleton:

I trust I will live long enough to complete it. There is some doubt in certain corners, but we’ll see.

Geselowitz:

I hope it’s no one in this room who has those doubts. [Chuckles] We have faith that you will.

Middleton:

It’s good incentive, anyway. What was it that Woody Allen said, “I don’t mind the thought of death, but I just don’t want to be around when it happens.”

Geselowitz:

Yes. So, thank you very, very much. I appreciate your time.

Middleton:

And I appreciate your time.