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So, I'm completely new to digital signal processing, but while reading a piece this morning about quantization it got me daydreaming: could a machine ever be fast enough to sample the position and amplitude of each particle that makes up a wave?

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Why would you want to? All you're measuring is thermal noise. – endolith Nov 18 '14 at 14:35
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Depends on assumptions you are willing to make and what type of signals are you trying to sample, but in theory I think that sampling rate equal to the Planck time would be a gold standard for anything...

This translates to sampling frequency of $1.855 \times 10 ^ {43} \mathtt{Hz}$ ($18.55$ tredecillion hertz). Personally I believe that machines will never be so fast. Obviously we can limit our assumptions to more realistic ones.

Obviously there is more constraints, such as: what sensor is capable of measuring displacement/velocity with such accuracy? Obviously this assumption is applicable even for subatomic scale, and most likely we don't need such accuracy in measurements of sound signals. Additionally when frequency is increasing, sound attenuation in media (air in this case) is increasing to enormous amounts and ultra-sonic sound waves are not propagating on large distances. At some point you will start measuring the Brownian motion. You also mentioned about possibility of measuring each particle separately and it is another, very difficult problem to tackle.

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Wow, so considering a computer running a 1 GHz processor is $1 \times 10^{9} \mathtt{Hz}$ then we've got some ways to go! – armadadrive Aug 12 '14 at 13:00
@armadadrive, answer updated. – jojek Aug 12 '14 at 13:07
Great answer, thank you for taking the time. – armadadrive Aug 12 '14 at 13:29

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