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Noise, in both analog and digital electronics, is an unwanted perturbation to a wanted signal; it is called noise as a generalisation of the audible noise heard when listening to a weak radio transmission. Signal noise is heard as acoustic noise if played through a loudspeaker; it manifests as 'snow' on a television or video image. Noise can block, distort, change or interfere with the meaning of a message in human, animal and electronic communication.

In signal processing or computing it can be considered unwanted data without meaning; that is, data that is not being used to transmit a signal, but is simply produced as an unwanted by-product of other activities.

In many of these areas, the special case of thermal noise arises, which sets a fundamental lower limit to what can be measured or signaled and is related to basic physical processes at the molecular level described by well-established thermodynamics considerations, some of which are expressible by simple formulae.


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