Field of Science

On Replications

Repetition is ubiquitous and has many different meanings in education, art, literature, science, and life Ideas replicate and mutate; cultural memes spread through culture seamlessly. Manufactured goods are produced as nearly identical as possible. Deviations from the mold are discarded and parts are interchangeable. Digital data is almost limitlessly replicable. Any data or idea committed to the digital world is perfectly copied (sparing the occurrence of a flipped bit) until it is intentionally modified. This characteristic of digital ideas presents a unique challenge for creators of content, distributors, and bored people on the internet. And of course animals and plants on Earth have the ability to self replicate themselves with minor variations. What do we make of all of this?

I am keen on the intersection of art and science on this matter. I like making collages and have highlighted repeated images before with 35 images of space helmet reflections and 100 images of macchiatos. Through repetition and distortion images may be amplified or diminished. It depends on perspective. Generally in artistic endeavors, as in life, the slight variations of a repeated theme are aesthetically pleasing. On the other hand technical work such as engineering, data analysis, or manufacturing requires precise replication. I work in radio astronomy where each radio telescope in the array is nearly identical and the need for precision trumps all other considerations. I find that randomness is never particularly interesting, but neither is absolute order. Somewhere in between these extremes we have something really beautiful.

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