Detecting highly oscillatory signals by chirplet path pursuit

Emmanuel J Candès, Philip Charlton, Hannes Helgason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)


This paper considers the problem of detecting nonstationary phenomena, and chirps in particular, from very noisy data. Chirps are waveforms of the very general form A(t)exp('''(t)), where ' is a (large) base frequency, the phase '(t) is time-varying and the amplitude A(t) is slowly varying. Given a set of noisy measurements, we would like to test whether there is signal or whether the data is just noise. One particular application of note in conjunction with this problem is the detection of gravitational waves predicted by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. We introduce detection strategies which are very sensitive and more flexible than existing feature detectors. The idea is to use structured algorithms which exploit information in the so-called chirplet graph to chain chirplets together adaptively as to form chirps with polygonal instantaneous frequency. We then search for the path in the graph which provides the best trade-off between complexity and goodness of fit. Underlying our methodology is the idea that while the signal may be extremely weak so that none of the individual empirical coefficients is statistically significant, one can still reliably detect by combining several coefficients into a coherent chain. This strategy is general and may be applied in many other detection problems. We complement our study with numerical experiments showing that our algorithms are so sensitive that they seem to detect signals whenever their strength makes them detectable by any method.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-40
Number of pages27
JournalApplied and Computational Harmonic Analysis
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


Dive into the research topics of 'Detecting highly oscillatory signals by chirplet path pursuit'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this