Sparked by a post on a social media thread where you least likely find much that was meme-worthy*, @Rob Estreitinho had a nice graph illustrating the rise and fall of social sites ranked by the volume of the popular shortcut-to-the-heart-of-culture message, format, thing they emit.
Knowing (well, hang on. Assuming) everyone knows what memes are, the question ‘where do they come from?’ (which isn’t that hard to discover) isn’t half so interesting as whether our little in-jokes aren’t actually fundamental particles of the internet – ubiquitous, almost. Pervasive, certainly. Part of the reason it exists? For some, almost definitely.
I’d call them fundamental (and without breaking down that word too closely for all it’s Dad-pun potential) because they do an enormous amount to heavy lifting through the minimum of means. Desperately wanted to types ‘memes’ there. Good job I didn’t.
If I were a physicist looking for a lol-worthy intro to an opening lecture I say they were almost the internet version of the most common particle in the actual universe.
Neutrino’s are a bit like memes. Everywhere, fantastically abundant “little whisps of almost nothing”, for which either meme or neutrino will suffice for the ‘what is?’
Studying both is tricky. Memes dissolve under scrutiny. Neutrino’s go to enormous lengths to avoid detection; well, clearly they don’t. We just aren’t sensitive enough to feel them. Which is odd, seeing how much of them there are. Even a banana emits neutrinos. They’re also a reason why your laptop crashes sometimes, as the hits can cause tiny corruptions to occur – a kind of stellar static I guess. Invisible and unnoticeable until they connect. Meme’s, I mean. Possibly.
Both could be kind-of ghosts in the machine. Distinct from a body but central to it if you think about it. One is the most abundant thing in the universe. The other is, er, oh. As well.
It’s great being able to get down to fundamentals; to find a way to explain why things are shaped the way they are – without losing the lovely mysteries at the heart of them. Which makes both so appealing.