Monday, February 25, 2013

Fractal Return

Every 12 years or so I get really into fractals and higher dimensional geometry in at least a serious recreational mathematical way. The last 5 years or so I've been doing a lot of music based on distributions of prime numbers (stuff like Continuation and Closure) but at the start of this year, the fractals came back in a big way. I've been playing around with a program called Mandelbulber to explore 3-D renderings of fractal shapes, an d getting back into the math behind generating the Mandelbrot set.

Last time I was this interested in fractals was around 1999 when I was playing with a MIDI-generating program called "Mu Soft Music Generator" (I think) which would create music based on different fractals, L-Systems or periodic oscillators. This was in between the long-term project from 1997-2003, a Q-Basic application that combined twelve-tone and minimalist techniques to play music on the SoundBlaster 16 soundcard - culminating in Writing Software to Play Music to Write Software To. I was trying to wrap my head around Manfred Schroeder's Fractals Chaos and Power Laws. At the time, seeing any kind of rendering of a fractal was a special thing - I feel like it was one of the first things that really caught my interest about the Web (funny how so many pages relating to fractals and fractal art still date from the late 1990's). Something to look forward to in 15 years will be having computers fast enough to explore high-resolution 3-D fractals in realtime.

I just purchased a copy of Experiments in 4 Dimensions which was one of the books that got me started on all of this, back when I was in 4th or 5th grade (circa 1986). I had that book out from the library multiple times, trying to master the code examples given for rendering and rotating a simple wireframe tesseract (on a 4-color, 8mhz, 640k computer). I don't think I ever got one of the programs completed, because having the source code back in 1986 meant that you had a printout of the source code that you could set in your lap while you typed it into your computer (and probably guessed at how to get Apple Basic to run under DOS). I did build some tesseract and hyperpyramid models out of toothpicks.

When I get the book, I'll see if I can translate the code examples from Experiments in 4 Dimensions to Javascript/html5 so people can share it and play with it.

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