Wavelets are like musical notes: they are wave forms limited in both time and frequency. What makes them particularly useful is that any reasonable wave function may be written as a sum over them.
Usually we think of music in terms of pure tones, in terms of its Fourier components. But pure tones can be a bit too pure. For one thing, if a tone is to be completely pure it has to last forever, not a characteristic associated with practical questions. Wavelets are impure tones, and therefore a better match to the real world.
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