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Emergent beauty

April 11, 2012

First, this video:

(h/t Hank Fox)

Once I was walking across campus at night and came upon an excavation that had been dug for some pipes or something. There were safety barriers around the hole, and on each barrier was a flashing light. Each flashing light also sounded a tiny beep sound when it flashed. Since the batteries in the lights were at different stages of discharge, the frequency of and interval between the beeps was different for each light. I stood among the barriers, closed my eyes and listened.

From only five barriers, a rich, textured sonic pattern emerged. It must have taken five minutes to cycle back around to the beginning; despite my poor hearing it was Mesmerizing and beautiful.

The word Periodicity refers to regular intervals in a phenomenon. It has countless scientific, industrial and artistic applications. For example network cables consist of four pairs twisted with different periodicity – the interval between twists – to discourage signal induction. A knitted hat may display intricate patterns that emerge from the periodicity of dyed sections in the yarn, as it is knitted into a head covering. Wave interference is used to establish the precision of a telescope mirror when it is ground. Waves coming to shore, if you listen to them long enough, reflect multiple sources.  It shows up in the coloration of butterfly wings and in architecture.

As to why many people find such emergent patterns beautiful, I have no idea. Your thoughts?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 11, 2012 at 11:16 | #1

    No answer or explanation but I must say it is a fascinating thing to see. You educate me a bit all the time!

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