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Ranking the Information Content of Distance Measures
Researchers can assess the similarity of different data points by creating measures of distance between them. This paper assesses the amount of information contained in different distance measures.
Real-world data typically contain a large number of features that are often heterogeneous in nature, relevance, and also units of measure. When assessing the similarity between data points, one can build various distance measures using subsets of these features. Using the fewest features but still retaining sufficient information about the system is crucial in many statistical learning approaches, particularly when data are sparse. We introduce a statistical test that can assess the relative information retained when using two different distance measures, and determine if they are equivalent, independent, or if one is more informative than the other. This in turn allows finding the most informative distance measure out of a pool of candidates. The approach is applied to find the most relevant policy variables for controlling the Covid-19 epidemic and to find compact yet informative representations of atomic structures, but its potential applications are wide ranging in many branches of science.