Hamming, "Error-Correcting Codes" (April 21, 1995)





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Published on Aug 8, 2012

Intro: There are two subject matters in this lecture; the first is the ostensible topic, error correcting codes, and the other is how the process of discovery sometimes goes - you all know that I am the official discoverer of the Hamming error correcting codes. Thus I am presumably in a position to describe how they were found. But you should beware of any reports of this kind. It is true at that time I was already very interested in the process of discovery, believing that in many cases the method of discovery is more important than what is discovered. I knew enough not to think about the process when doing research, just as athletes do not think about style when the engage in sports, but they practice the style until it is more or less automatic. I had thus established the habit that, after something of great or small importance was discovered, of going back and trying to trace the steps by which it apparently happened. But do not be deceived; at best I can give the conscious part, and a bit of the upper subconscious part, but we simply do not know how the unconscious works its magic.

The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn" was the capstone course by Dr. Richard W. Hamming (1915-1998) for graduate students at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey California.

This course is intended to instill a "style of thinking" that will enhance one's ability to function as a problem solver of complex technical issues. With respect, students sometimes called the course "Hamming on Hamming" because he relates many research collaborations, discoveries, inventions and achievements of his own. This collection of stories and carefully distilled insights relates how those discoveries came about. Most importantly, these presentations provide objective analysis about the thought processes and reasoning that took place as Dr. Hamming, his associates and other major thinkers, in computer science and electronics, progressed through the grand challenges of science and engineering in the twentieth century.


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