The World Sings to Me

Calligraphy. Rebel Without A Cause. Heartbeats. Chaos Theory. Predicting heart attacks.

What might these things have in common? The 1/f Fluctuation.

From Wikipedia:

In stochastic processes, chaos theory and time series analysis, detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA) is a method for determining the statistical self-affinity of a signal. It is useful for analysing time series that appear to be long-memory processes (diverging correlation time, e.g. power-law decaying autocorrelation function) or 1/f noise.
The obtained exponent is similar to the Hurst exponent, except that DFA may also be applied to signals whose underlying statistics (such as mean and variance) or dynamics are non-stationary (changing with time). It is related to measures based upon spectral techniques such as autocorrelation and Fourier transform.
DFA was introduced by Peng et al. 1994 and represents an extension of the (ordinary) fluctuation analysis (FA), which is affected by non-stationarities.

Sorry if your eyes crossed about halfway through that, like mine did. That’s not even the formulas or anything!

Here’s the simple version:

The 1/f Fluctuation is a concept from chaos theory. The 1/f fluctuation is a pattern of attention that naturally occurs in the human mind and elsewhere in nature. It appears to be a constant in the universe, showing up in engineering, economics and the human heartbeat, among many other things.

It has been said that the pattern which is characterized by the 1/f fluctuation is a source of pleasant feeling. It is found in classical music (leading one to wonder if perhaps the composers were even more brilliant than we give them credit for!), certain brain waves, Japanese calligraphy, and the human pulse.

Recently, it has been used to break down what makes something attractive to the human eye and ear. There is an extensive study of the mechanics of calligraphy’s beauty, as explained by the 1/f fluctuation, among other theories.

The Science of Hollywood
What makes a blockbuster? Why do new movies feel so different from older movies?

Perhaps due to a natural evolution based on our attention patterns. Movies that miss the pattern might not last, no matter how good their plot or characterization might be, while the blockbusters, lacking depth and brilliance, continue to draw huge crowds.

Scientists have found several movies which have near-perfect 1/f fluctuation patterns, some in almost every genre. The Perfect Storm, released in 2000, Rebel Without a Cause, 1955, and, perhaps not surprisingly, Hitchcock’s 39 Steps, released in 1935.

I have to wonder what would be discovered in analysis of Hitchcock’s works as a whole, or Steven King, or any of the other massively popular authors, movies and music. Is this a determining factor in what makes a masterpiece? Or merely a chart-topping piece?

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This is a science that doesn’t apply only to what is within our stories, but perhaps even the stories themselves, and their delivery.

If movies are indeed more successful because they follow this formula, then how long until Hollywood requires its directors to understand the fluctuation, and utilize it in their movies? Will music become a collection of songs based on 1/f? Can this theory be moved from visual and auditory experiences and be leveraged against print audiences? If the fluctuation was mastered, would that be the cornerstone of truly immersive virtual reality?

Anything for another dollar, right? But would this be bad? If the 1/f fluctuation is a fluctuation of pleasure, then would music become art again? Could book pacing be patterned for maximum attention? (I hold no hope for Hollywood, sorry…)

Within a story, the 1/f fluctuation could serve science or magic. Perhaps that is the pattern of Avatar’s Ewa, or a the foundation of mood-music on one of Saturn’s moons. If the world is based on a rhythm or pattern, could we change the future by manipulation of the fluctuation, or, if such fluctuations are fixed, determine the future to some degree.

Granted, this is all speculation based on a science that is, at best, confusing for someone who hasn’t studied it in depth. But any way it is looked at, it is fascinating to think that, perhaps, this is the rhythm, the heartbeat of the world.

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