Quantum noise and the threshold of hearing

William Bialek, Allan Schweitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


We argue that the sensitivity of the ear reaches a limit imposed by the uncertainty principle. This is possible only if the receptor cell holds the detector elements in a special nonequilibrium state which has the same noise characteristics as a ground (T=0 K) state. To accomplish this "active cooling" the molecular dynamics of the system must maintain quantum mechanical coherence over the time scale of the measurement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)725-728
Number of pages4
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1985
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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