The transformation is done through what's called an "integration" of the original, mechanical function of time. (If you've taken calculus, you should remember integration.) Basically, this is taking that function and recovering information from it by mathematically slicing it up into tiny bits. It's pretty neat. This, it turns out, is how we get meaning (words, music, whatever) from sound (that big wave in the ocean). Or so scientists have thought.
Turns out this might not be quite the case. Researchers at Rockefeller University devised an experiment to test the limit of this kind of analysis via Fourier transformation.
Rockefeller researchers, Jacob Oppenheim and Marcelo Magnasco, took a group of 12 composers and musicians and tested them to see if they could analyze a sound beyond the uncertainty limit of Fourier analysis. And guess what? They busted it down. "Our subjects often exceeded the uncertainty limit, sometimes by more than tenfold, mostly through remarkable timing acuity," the authors write in Physical Review Letters."
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