Science

“The History of Noise”

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[From an engineering colleague:] “This paper gives a nice historical perspective on the development of the theory of noise, from its origins with Brownian motion. It also has some amusing quotes from prominent scientists of the last century denying the existence of atoms with a certainty that can only be matched by today’s Darwinists denying any challenges to evolution.”

The history of noise
Leon Cohen
City Univ. of New York (USA)
SPIE Digital Library

ABSTRACT: “Noise” had a glorious birth. While there were rumblings before 1905, it was Einstein’s explanation of Brownian motion that started the field. His motivation was not the mere explanation of the erratic movement of pollen, but much bigger: that noise could establish the existence of atoms. Immediately after Einstein there was an incredible flurry of ideas of the most profound kind that continues to this day. But noise, considered by many as unwanted, and mistakenly defined as such by some, has little respectability. The term itself conjures up images of rejection. Yet, it is an idea that has served mankind in the most profound ways. It would be a dull gray world without noise. The story of noise is fascinating and while in its early stages its story was clearly told, its subsequent divergence into many subfields has often resulted in a lack of understanding of its historical origins and development. We try to give it some justice. We discuss who did what, when, and why, and the historical misconceptions. But most importantly, we aim to show that the story of noise is an exciting story worth telling.

6 Replies to ““The History of Noise”

  1. 1
    Red Reader says:

    “Einstein’s motivation was…that noise could establish the existence of atoms. ”
    Hmmm. As in “_And God said_, ‘Let there be a firmament…'” (Gn 1:6) ?

  2. 2
    keiths says:

    Red Reader was being sardonic, I’m sure, but social constructivists actually do believe that Einstein, or Dalton, or Democritus really created atoms. Beaumie Kim says:
    “Social constructivists believe that reality is constructed through human activity. Members of a society together invent the properties of the world (Kukla, 2000). For the social constructivist, reality cannot be discovered: it does not exist prior to its social invention.”

    Good thing nobody’s thought of intelligent design… Oops, too late.

  3. 3
    Red Reader says:

    Sorry, no, I was not being sardonic.

    I actually think it is rather amazing that a credible physicist advanced a theory suggesting that matter (atoms) may have been created by “noise” AND that an ancient record suggests the same thing: that “the firmament” (matter) was created by a “saying”, a “spoken word”, a modulated frequency of some kind, a subset of “noise”.

    My first comment was too clever by half.

  4. 4
    DaveScot says:

    Red Reader

    Actually it appears the universe was ordered by noise. One might even, without too much of a stretch, call it the voice of God.

    In the comment below the second link is general reading on it and the third has .wav files where you can listen to it:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ment-15342

  5. 5
    pmob1 says:

    This is the kind of stuff that makes me feel like I’m out of my league on this site. I’ve read two Einstein lectures from the 1920s but anything with equations stops me cold unless it has to do with NASCAR wedge adjustments or when not to advance the runner from 2nd. So I followed this noise deal back through Wikipedia and Brownian motion and all that sort of thing and they’re saying:

    —– The mathematical model can also be used to describe many phenomena not resembling (other than mathematically) the random movement of minute particles. An often quoted example is stock market fluctuations. Another example is the evolution of physical characteristics in the fossil record. —–

    So what stumps me is this: what characteristics of stasis are considered Brownian?

    Your loyal mascot,

    Dumbo

  6. 6
    keiths says:

    I thought it was a play on words, but Red Reader assures me he was quite serious:

    “Sorry, no, I was not being sardonic.
    I actually think it is rather amazing that a credible physicist advanced a theory suggesting that matter (atoms) may have been created by “noise” AND that an ancient record suggests the same thing: that “the firmament” (matter) was created by a “saying”, a “spoken word”, a modulated frequency of some kind, a subset of “noise”.”

    Red is referring to this sentence from the article:

    “His [Einstein’s] motivation was not the mere explanation of the erratic movement of pollen, but much bigger: that noise could establish the existence of atoms.”

    Red, “establish” is being used here in the sense of “provide overwhelming evidence for”. It does not mean “create”.

    Example: “Red Reader’s comments establish that he is not a Darwinian.”

    Check out an article on Brownian motion to see why it provides evidence for the existence of atoms (or more properly, molecules). It’s a simple concept, but interesting.

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