White noise

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White noise is a random signal (or process) with a flat power spectral density. In other words, the signal contains equal power within a fixed bandwidth at any center frequency. White noise draws its name from white light in which the power spectral density of the light is distributed over the visible band in such a way that the eye's three color receptors (cones) are approximately equally stimulated.

An infinite-bandwidth white noise signal is a purely theoretical construction. The bandwidth of white noise is limited in practice by the mechanism of noise generation, by the transmission medium and by finite observation capabilities. A random signal is considered "white noise" if it is observed to have a flat spectrum over a medium's widest possible bandwidth.


White noise in a spatial context

While it is usually applied in the context of frequency domain signals, the term white noise is also commonly applied to a noise signal in the spatial domain. In this case, it has an auto correlation which can be represented by a delta function over the relevant space dimensions. The signal is then "white" in the spatial frequency domain (this is equally true for signals in the angular frequency domain, e.g., the distribution of a signal across all angles in the night sky).

Statistical properties

The image to the right displays a finite length, discrete time realization of a white noise process generated from a computer.

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