Intuition About Signals And Systems

Signals and systems theory is a tough topic. Terms like convolution and impulse response can be hard to understand on a visceral level and most books that talk about these things emphasize math over intuition. [Discretised] has a YouTube channel that already has several videos that promise to tackle these topics with “minimum maths, maximum intuition.” We particularly noticed the talks on convolution and impulse response.

We think that often math and intuition don’t always come together. It is one thing, for example, to know that E=I times R, and power is I times E, but it is another to realize that a half-watt transmitter delivers 5V into a 50Ω load and that one watt will take just over 7V into that same load.

The example used is computing how much smoke you can expect to create by setting off fireworks. We presume the math models are notional since we imagine a real model would be pretty complex and involve things like wind data. But it still makes a nice example.

If you don’t know anything about the topic, these might not be the right ones to try to learn the basics. But we do applaud people sharing their intuition on these complex subjects.

Convolution and impulse responses play a big part in digital signal processing and we’ve — of course — talked about them before. We’ve also followed some initiatives to merge math and intuition in the educational sphere.

7 thoughts on “Intuition About Signals And Systems

  1. Two videos showing an excellent way how not to explain such topics. For more than 5 minutes the camera is fixed on the same face which bubbles out too many words an terms. Instead of good graphics we can only see a waving of hands. Look out in the net: You can find much better videos.

    1. Gotta disagree with you on this one mate. Felt that for what the content was, it was delivered in a very accessible manner. I feel like you judged it too quickly and harshly. There’s always room for improvement, you had the opportunity to offer actual constructive criticism but I guess you’re not the supportive type.

    2. I half-agree. Not a fan of the “talking head” explanations, they don’t do it for me. But the idea was good and the explanations were also good.
      I enjoy a lot more the pen-and-paper explanations from w2aew (Alan Wolke) and Applied Science (Ben Krasnow).

      There are many youtube channels that do a more professional dumbing-down approach (3blue1brown comes to mind) but making those cute animations takes a LOT of time.

  2. I thought they were quite good. It took me back to my uni days but I don’t think it is even a starting point for knowing about such topics, more a layman’s explanation for someone that does not need to go further.

    Without understanding the maths you cannot understand the topics and that is all there is to it.

    1. I agree, these are meant to augment a mathematical understanding of these concepts not replace them. They’re two sides to a coin, without an appreciation of both the maths and the intuition you can’t effectively apply the concepts – but most other tutorials out there seem to just focus on the maths side.

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