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Valiant, Gregory, Valiant, Paul.  2017.  Estimating the Unseen: Improved Estimators for Entropy and Other Properties. J. ACM. 64:37:1–37:41.

We show that a class of statistical properties of distributions, which includes such practically relevant properties as entropy, the number of distinct elements, and distance metrics between pairs of distributions, can be estimated given a sublinear sized sample. Specifically, given a sample consisting of independent draws from any distribution over at most k distinct elements, these properties can be estimated accurately using a sample of size O(k log k). For these estimation tasks, this performance is optimal, to constant factors. Complementing these theoretical results, we also demonstrate that our estimators perform exceptionally well, in practice, for a variety of estimation tasks, on a variety of natural distributions, for a wide range of parameters. The key step in our approach is to first use the sample to characterize the ``unseen'' portion of the distribution—effectively reconstructing this portion of the distribution as accurately as if one had a logarithmic factor larger sample. This goes beyond such tools as the Good-Turing frequency estimation scheme, which estimates the total probability mass of the unobserved portion of the distribution: We seek to estimate the shape of the unobserved portion of the distribution. This work can be seen as introducing a robust, general, and theoretically principled framework that, for many practical applications, essentially amplifies the sample size by a logarithmic factor; we expect that it may be fruitfully used as a component within larger machine learning and statistical analysis systems.