Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Jackson Pollock knew how to paint realistically. Hollywood had a problem putting realism in motion. How do you show the fire and ice cascading apocalypse around futuristic characters bravely pushing ahead into unknown space, land, under the land, back to Atlantis or wherever futuristic folk must go? Fractals of course.

In 1968 at Boeing Aircraft in Seattle engineers designing experimental planes wanted to picture mountains behind the plane. A computer scientist, Lauren Carpenter took Benoit Mandlebrot’s fractals and built the same shape over and over, endless repetition until mountains and rugged structures took their place providing realistic landscape to show off the airplanes.

 “The history of fractals traces a path from chiefly theoretical studies to modern applications in computer graphics, with several notable people contributing canonical fractal forms along the way.” Wikipedia

George Lucas experienced a challenge. How to create the effect of incoming fire waves, volcanic eruptions threatening Luke Skywalker as he battled a white-encased, faceless enemy? Computer generated fractals supplied the answer and films have never been the same since.

The similarity of pattern colored shades of yellow to red to blue and our mind sees the volcano we never mastered for eighth grade science.  Today Kinect Star Wars game brings you into “iconic settings, characters and action, puts you in the Star Wars you know and love, and lets you unleash your inner Jedi.” All without measuring or rethinking a single dimension. The computer accomplishes the reiteration that has been lying in wait for us.

Here’s my point. Fractals have been in existence for millions of years without our knowledge.  Now we use them in antennae production, art, games, cancer research, map making, computer generation, and philosophy when discussing the idea of chaos. Take a look at to see the Grand Canyon replicated in full fractal color and design.

Human beings did not create fractals, mountains, coastlines, Niagara Falls, geometry, and the list goes on. (Perhaps global warming and freezing in Iceland and Utah's Great Salt Lake could slide in here next to the Rocky Mountains.) Yet the temptation to take dictatorial ownership as if we played a causitive part is overwhelming as we discover what someone else put in motion.  And I believe that someone played around with the tools of his trade for millions of years with great enjoyment and will continue to do so for as long as he chooses.

So what else don’t we know yet?

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