Imagine driving your car at night while its headlights display an annoying blinking behavior, switching on and off randomly. To add to the nuisance, the blinking has no definite time scale. In fact, although in most of your nightly journeys your headlights display quite rapid blinking, rendering at least some visibility, occasionally they remain off for almost the entire journey.

Ridiculous and impractical as that behavior may seem, such is the situation commonly encountered by nanoscientists: A wide variety of natural and artificial nanoscopic light emitters, from fluorescent proteins to semiconductor nanostructures, display a blinking behavior like that described above. The emission (on) and no-emission (off) periods have a duration that varies from less than a millisecond to several minutes and more. The probability of occurrence of the on and off times is characterized by a power law, which is a typical sign of high complexity and is fundamentally different...

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