past appear to have been used in practice, it is quite straightforward to implement. The pictures on the facing page show some examples of the results one gets. And in many cases it turns out that the overall level of compression obtained is considerably greater than with any of the other schemes discussed in this section. But what is perhaps still more striking is that the patterns of repeated regions seem to capture almost every regularity that we readily notice by eye—as well as some that we do not. In pictures (c) and (d), for example, fairly subtle repetition on the left-hand side is captured, as is fourfold symmetry in picture (e).

One might have thought that to capture all these kinds of regularities would require a whole collection of complicated procedures. But what the pictures on the facing page demonstrate is that in fact just a single rather straightforward procedure is quite sufficient. And indeed the amount of compression achieved by this procedure in different cases seems to agree rather well with our intuitive impression of how much regularity is present.

All of the methods of data compression that we have discussed in this section can be thought of as corresponding to fairly simple programs. But each method involves a program with a rather different structure, and so one might think that it would inevitably be sensitive to rather different kinds of regularities.

But what we have seen in this section is that in fact different methods of data compression have remarkably similar characteristics. Essentially every method, for example, will successfully compress large regions of uniform color. And most methods manage to compress behavior that is repetitive, and at least to some extent behavior that is nested—exactly the two kinds of simple behavior that we have noted many times in this book.

For more complicated behavior, however, none of the methods seem capable of substantial compression. It is not that no compression is ever in principle possible. Indeed, as it happens, every single one of the pictures on the facing page can for example be generated from very short cellular automaton programs.

But the point is that except when the overall behavior shows repetition or nesting none of the standard methods of data compression

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From Stephen Wolfram: A New Kind of Science [citation]