I have some additional information about the scientific paper that is the topic of this thread:
Jacob N. Oppenheim and Marcelo O. Magnasco, "Human Time-Frequency Acuity Beats the Fourier Uncertainty Principle", Phys Rev Lett 110
which is found on-line here: http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v110/i4/e044301
 Full access to the Physical Review Letters (abbreviated "Phys Rev Lett" or PRL) article requires either of the following:
(a) Membership in the American Physical Society (http://www.aps.org/membership/join.cfm
) and, in addition, an online subscription to PRL, which is an additional $50 / year for American Physical Society members.
(b) (Probably) purchase of the individual article. Sorry that I can't provide full information on the "individual purchase" option right now. However, the free option described in my next paragraph makes any of the cost options mostly unnecessary.
 This is a "mostly good news / some bad news" item
You don't need a subscription to PRL to get access to the article. A "preprint" of the full article, which is almost identical to the final PRL version, is available at the free "arxiv.org" site. Here: http://arxiv.org/abs/1208.4611
So what's the "bad news" part? The preprint at "arxiv.org" includes the full article, but does not include the Supplemental Material (Footnote : "See Supplemental Material at [URL will be inserted by publisher] for testing procedures and parameters, fitted data, controls, and discussion of performance at other parameter values)." The Supplemental Material is (as far as I know) available only from PRL: http://prl.aps.org/supplemental/PRL/v110/i4/e044301
The Supplement turns out to be of equal length to the "regular" article and includes considerable additional information on some topics, especially Experimental Design and Controls. (BTW, this is a trend I've noticed in publication of scientific papers - to put a lot of information about the study in a separate Supplement document, which can be as long as the "regular" article - not a helpful trend, in my opinion
I have access to an online PRL subscription through my employer, so I can see the PRL version of the regular article, which as I said is almost identical to the free Arxiv.org preprint, and the Supplement. (Sorry I can't publicly share copyrighted material from the PRL website - please don't ask.) Maybe the corresponding author would agree to make the Supplement publicly available if the author knew the interest his work has generated in audio discussion groups. The author's contact info is available here: http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v110/i4/e044301
 Finally I have a comment about the content of the scientific paper, versus this statement by pgwalsh in his first post (my emphasis):
a recent Physical Review Letter, in which researchers demonstrated the vast majority of humans can perceive certain aspects of sound far more accurately than allowed by a simple reading of the laws of physics.
From my reading, the "vast majority of humans" part is absolute wrong as a summary of the scientific paper, and should be replaced by something like "researchers demonstrated that a tiny minority of humans, namely composers and conductors of 'classical' or 'serious' music (and, to a much lesser extent, musicians),
can perceive certain aspects of sound far more accurately than allowed by a simple reading of the laws of physics". (I'm not blaming pgwalsh for this inaccuracy if pgwalsh only had access to the arstechnica article, not the actual scientific paper.)
Let me explain with some quotes from the (open, Arxiv.org version of the) paper. First, this study consisted of controlled experiments on the hearing abilities of a group of humans, the test subjects of the study. The subjects were given five hearing discrimination "tasks" of increasing difficulty. Only success in the final and most difficult task,
task 5, showed that "human hearing beats sound's uncertainty limit". (In other words, if all the subjects had succeeded in tasks 1 to 4, and all had failed in task 5,
the paper would not exist in its present form with its present title, and we probably wouldn't be talking about it here.)
So what was the critical 5th task, and the other four tasks? To quote from the caption of Figure 1:
In our final task 5, subjects are asked to discriminate simultaneously whether the test note (red) is higher or lower in frequency than the leading note (green), and whether the test note appears before or after the flanking high note (blue). For each instance of the task, two numbers are generated (Dt and Df) and two Boolean responses (left/right, up/down) are recorded. Tasks 1 through 4 lead to this final task: task 1 is frequency only (uses two flanking notes), task 2 timing only, task 3 is frequency only but with the flanking high note (blue) as a distractor, and task 4 is timing only, with the leading (green) note as a distractor.
and to quote from the caption of Figure 3 (my emphasis):
Each round dot is a completion of Task 5 by a subject on an individual day, with at least 100 presentations. There were 12 subjects totaling 26 individual sessions for Gaussian and 12 sessions for notelike tests. Blue denotes Gaussian packet while red denotes notelike. The two solid lines are the locus of the relation [doesn't copy well from the PDF]; any dots below these curves violate the corresponding uncertainty relation.
So, who were the subjects, and who succeeded at which tasks, including the critical 5th task? To quote from the paper once more:
It is important to stress where the difficulty of the task lies. Our preliminary testing included non-musicians, who where often close in performance to musicians on tasks 1 and 2 (separate time and frequency acuity), but then found tasks 3 and 4 hard, while musicians, trained to play in ensembles, found them easy. We further found that composers and conductors achieved the best results in task 5, consistently beating the uncertainty principle by factors of 2 or more, whereas performers were more likely to beat it only by a few percentage points. After debriefing subjects, it appears that the necessity of hearing multi-voiced music (both in frequency and in time) in one's head and coaching others to perform it led to the improved performance of conductors and composers.
So, according to this study, "composers and conductors" are the true high-end audiophiles, with specific hearing abilities that far exceed the abilities of average humans
(Did anyone besides me ever anticipate or imagine that a scientific study, with this very specific result
, might one day exist?
[small clarification: I'm definitely not claiming that I "imagined" or "anticipated" the existence of a study on the topic "Human Time-Frequency Acuity Beats the Fourier Uncertainty Principle". I am claiming that I imagined (long before this study) that scientific research might show "hearing acuity" of the most highly trained and skilled musicians is superior, in some unspecified way, to "hearing acuity" of average humans. I have no proof that my imagination did this - I didn't write down a prediction in AVS Forum or elsewhere - but you can take my word
]Edited by Sonic icons - 6/5/13 at 6:34pm