Yesterday I came across an interesting example of the isolation of academic fields from one another.

A common design parameter for antenna arrays is to try to obtain uniform coverage of the aperture plane to get as many independent measurements as possible. Interferometers sample the aperture plane at locations that correspond to the difference vectors between antenna elements. For example, in one dimension, if I put four antennas at locations (0,1,4,6), then that array would sample the difference set of those positions: (1,2,3,4,5,6). However, if I put antennas at (0,1,2,3), the difference set would only include (1,2,3) with 1 occuring 3 times and 2 occuring twice. For the purpose of uniformly sampling an aperture, redundant spacings are lost measurements. We're looking for a minimum-redundancy array.

There have been a few papers in radio astronomy on minimum-redundancy arrays for the more useful 2-dimensional case, including Golay (1971), Klemperer (1974), and Cornwell (1988).

Thinking that this might be a mathematical problem of interest, I ran it by a good friend of mine: Phil Matchett Wood--a mathematician at Princeton. He quickly uncovered the equivalent problem as formulated in math literature: Golomb rulers in 1-D and Golomb rectangles in 2-D. Some relevant papers on the subject are Shearer (1995), Meyer & Jaumard (2005), Robinson (1985), and Robinson (1997). These papers are on the exact problem and describe applications to "radar and sonar signal detection", obviously referring to the need for independent aperture samples in radar and sonar interferometers. Somehow, the differing nomenclature between these fields was never quite bridged, and so there has not been and cross-referencing between these two formulations of the same underlying problem. People like to talk about the possibility that relevant research in one field goes unnoticed by other fields. This is the first time I've across it myself, though.

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