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For the past 12 years we have been studying optical micro-variability of a sample of 15 Blazars. We summarize the results of this study and draw some basic conclusions about the characteristics of micro-variability. The intermittency, the stochastic nature, and the similar profile shapes seen in micro-variations at different times and in different objects have led us to a possible model to explain the observed micro-variations. The model is based on a strong shock propagating down a relativistic jet and encountering turbulence which causes density or magnetic field enhancements. We use the theory of Kirk, Reiger, and Mastichiadis (1998) to describe the pulse of synchrotron emission emanating from individual density enhancements energized by the shock. By fitting these “pulses” to micro-variability observations, we obtain excellent fits to actual micro-variations. The model predicts that the spectral index changes as a function of pulse duration. This effect should be observable in multi-frequency micro-variability data. We present the theoretical model, model fits of our micro-variability light curves, and preliminary multi-frequency micro-variability observations that support this model. A further test that has yet to be carried out involves observing polarization changes in different pulses.

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Originally published in Galaxies.

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