You’ve heard the urban wisdom about the seven-minute lull? Attentive listeners and pattern-seekers have noted that the noise level at a party always seems to cycle up and down, with higher-decibel peaks and the occasional surprising valley of silence. The lull theory says that, periodically, conversation will stop for a moment as everyone takes a collective breath—the seven-minute lull—before chatter ramps up again. This phenomenon has also been called the Harvard pause, or a visit by Abraham Lincoln’s ghost. The lull is a handy staple for sitcom writers: the unexpected silence into which the bumbling hero blurts an embarrassing truth. And hilarity ensues.
Duncan Watts has written about the small world phenomenon, and how interactions and behaviors flow in a networked system. In his 1999 book Small Worlds: The Dynamics of Networks between Order and Randomness, Watts describes how his dissertation research on "synchronization of biological oscillators" brought him to. . . crickets. Populations of crickets end up chirping in synchrony as a result of minute adjustments by individual crickets. But what (or whose) signal are they following? Who’s conducting the orchestra? If we credit the small world phenomenon, Kevin Bacon may be the one waving the baton.
And does the oscillation of party chatter follow a similar pattern, all that chaotic chirping leading to a pause-point of synchrony? Are we just a bunch of crickets?
This is all just to say that I unexpectedly hit a seven-month blogging lull. But I’m happy to be back, and ready to get caught up.