Monday, December 05, 2005

Order in Chaos

This isn't really a music post, but I think the subject is tangentally related.

I have already posted about fractals and self-similarity, and this is easy to relate to music, but there is also chaos theory. Simply, the boundaries of chaos are actually anything but chaotic or random: These bordering event horizons break into fractal patterns of self-similarity, so the two subjects are actually very closely related.

But what interests me are the larger chaotic formations, which appear to be only quasi-random to me. The inherant ability to recognize and comprehend patterns varies widely between individuals, and I know I have a fairly significant gift in that area, but I think virtually all musicians do. So, I am going to present as some compelling examples a few images in which I detect very fluid but significant patterns and correspondences. These images are from the field of astronomy and astrophysics, which has been an extra-curricular interest of mine since I was a boy (I was even in an astronomy Explorer Post once).

The first example is of a "small" explosive event (The aftermath of a supernova that is "only" about six lightyears across), and the other is of a "large" explosive event (The aftermath of the big bang, which is the entire cosmos as we currently understand it).

This is an image of the Crab Nebula, which is a compilation of about 25 different shots taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. This has been making the rounds on the internet, and when I saw it, it reminded me of another image I had seen, which I will post below. But first, I want you to notice the filaments of gas that permeate the nebula. This gargantuan explosion was of a fairly massive star, and it's core remains at the center, spinning thirty times per second, and it's poles emit radio waves (Which is how we know how fast it's spinning). The super-dense matter of this brown dwarf is only about the size of a large city, but it's mass is many times that of the earth.

When I stare at this image and disengage my left brain, I see all sorts of patterns and correspondences.

Now look at this image. This is a computer simulation of the distribution of GALAXIES in the UNIVERSE! Personally, I find this incomprehensibly astonishing: Each and every dot in this image is a galaxy, and the hot spots are clusters of galaxies. Note that there are the same kinds of filaments of galaxies as there were filaments of gas in the nebula.

My right brain percieves the very same kinds of patterns and correspondences in this image as are present in the photo of the Crab Nebula.

This is even more obvious to me in this closeup of a section of the simulated cosmological map.

When Schillinger said that a purely neutral pitch distribution could never be musical, I believe he was right. It would appear that there is no pure uniformity, randomness, or chaos possible at all in nature.

Notice how the strands of hair resemble the filaments in....


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