Observing non-repetitive and statistically rare signals that occur on short timescales requires fast real-time measurements that exceed the speed, precision and record length of conventional digitizers. Photonic time stretch is a data acquisition method that overcomes the speed limitations of electronic digitizers and enables continuous ultrafast single-shot spectroscopy, imaging, reflectometry, terahertz and other measurements at refresh rates reaching billions of frames per second with non-stop recording spanning trillions of consecutive frames. The technology has opened a new frontier in measurement science unveiling transient phenomena in nonlinear dynamics such as optical rogue waves and soliton molecules, and in relativistic electron bunching. It has also created a new class of instruments that have been integrated with artificial intelligence for sensing and biomedical diagnostics. We review the fundamental principles and applications of this emerging field for continuous phase and amplitude characterization at extremely high repetition rates via time-stretch spectral interferometry.