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July 30, 2009 6:56 AM   Subscribe

Arthur C. Clarke presents a documentary on fractals

Direct YT links, in case the main link dies: 1 2 3 4 5 6
posted by mhjb (25 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
This is great, thank you!
posted by FuturisticDragon at 7:17 AM on July 30, 2009

I'm only a few minutes into the first video, but this is really, really cool.
posted by resiny at 7:22 AM on July 30, 2009

But he's dead.
posted by xmutex at 7:32 AM on July 30, 2009

But he's dead.

It's a recording.
posted by philip-random at 7:38 AM on July 30, 2009

But he's dead

I think it's a robot.
posted by fuq at 8:39 AM on July 30, 2009

I didn't realize he was dead. I have been waiting to hear his opinion about the recent end in fighting.
posted by Pants! at 8:51 AM on July 30, 2009

Is this something I'd have to be smart to understand?
posted by Evangeline at 10:00 AM on July 30, 2009

Hell I'm dumb and I like it. Fascinating. Thank you, Mr. Clarke (or ghost of).
posted by rahnefan at 10:09 AM on July 30, 2009

In that case, I can't actually watch it at work, but I'll give it a shot when I get home.
posted by Evangeline at 11:28 AM on July 30, 2009

Great great great great great!
posted by ElmerFishpaw at 11:40 AM on July 30, 2009

fantastic, thank you
posted by Think_Long at 11:45 AM on July 30, 2009

And like the Mandelbrot set the guitar solos go on and on forever and ever.
posted by Dumsnill at 11:46 AM on July 30, 2009

But thanks, I love this!
posted by Dumsnill at 11:48 AM on July 30, 2009

just some dudes messing with drugs and math
posted by rodz37 at 12:19 PM on July 30, 2009

crystal math
posted by rodz37 at 12:20 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Trippy. I could also have enjoyed a bit less 'iteration' and electric guitar whining
posted by Cranberry at 1:12 PM on July 30, 2009

These are great. If you want to explore the Mandlebrot set yourself, XaoS is a fantastic fractal viewing program. And here are some great videos of fractal zooms from a previous MeFi thread.
posted by straight at 1:14 PM on July 30, 2009

just some dudes messing with drugs and math

Haha! I know the guy who did all the fractal graphics. In fact I have very clear memories of a bunch of us chasing across west London high as kites to get a VCR to play his copy of this back in '95.
posted by i_cola at 2:27 PM on July 30, 2009

Delicious. It was much better than Cats. I want to see it again and again.

(seriously -- great stuff! thanks for posting!)
posted by hippybear at 3:24 PM on July 30, 2009

Excellent. It's posts like this that make me glad I dropped some acid this morning.
posted by Liquidwolf at 3:32 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Most people, when they say 'infinitely' they mean only 'rather big,' but this- is- really- infinity."
posted by paisley henosis at 7:29 PM on July 31, 2009

I bet that's what you say to all the ladies p.h.
posted by mhjb at 11:36 PM on July 31, 2009

you really should watch this :P
NARRATOR: In 1978, at Boeing Aircraft in Seattle, engineers were designing experimental aircraft.

LOREN CARPENTER (Pixar Animation Studios): Exotic things, with two wings or two tails or two fuselages, and just weird stuff because, "who knows, it might work."

NARRATOR: A young computer scientist named Loren Carpenter was helping them visualize what the planes might look like in flight.

LOREN CARPENTER: I would get the data from them and make pictures from various angles, but I wanted to be able to put a mountain behind it, because every Boeing publicity photo in existence has a mountain behind it. But there was no way to do mountains. Mountains had millions and millions of little triangles or polygons or whatever you want to call it, and we had enough trouble with a hundred. Especially in those days when our machines were slower than the ones you have in your watch.

NARRATOR: Carpenter didn't want to make just any mountains. He wanted to create a landscape the planes could fly through. But there was no way to do that with existing animation techniques. From the time movies began, animators had to draw each frame by hand—thousands of them—to make even a short cartoon.

THUMPER (Bambi/Filmclip): That's why they call me Thumper.

NARRATOR: But that was before Loren Carpenter stumbled across the work of a little-known mathematician named Benoit Mandelbrot.

LOREN CARPENTER: In 1978, I ran into this book in a bookstore: Fractals: Form, Chance and Dimension, by Benoit Mandelbrot, and it has to do with the fractal geometry of nature. So I bought the book and took it home and read it, cover to cover, every last little word, including the footnotes and references, twice.

NARRATOR: In his book, Mandelbrot said that many forms in nature can be described mathematically as fractals: a word he invented to define shapes that look jagged and broken. He said that you can create a fractal by taking a smooth-looking shape and breaking it into pieces, over and over again.

Carpenter decided he'd try doing that on his computer.

LOREN CARPENTER: Within three days, I was producing pictures of mountains on my computer at work.

The method is dead simple. You start with a landscape made out of very rough triangles, big ones. And then for each triangle, break it into, into four triangles. And then do that again, and then again and again and again.

NARRATOR: Endless repetition—what mathematicians call iteration—it's one of the keys to fractal geometry.

LOREN CARPENTER: The pictures were stunning. They were just totally stunning. No one has had ever seen anything like this. And I just opened a whole new door to a new world of making pictures. And it got the computer graphics community excited about fractals, because, suddenly, they were easy to do. And so people started doing them all over the place.

NARRATOR: Carpenter soon left Boeing to join Lucasfilm, where, instead of making mountains, he created a whole new planet, for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

It was the first ever completely computer-generated sequence in a feature film...
Vol Libre, an amazing CG film from 1980: In 1980, Boeing employee Loren Carpenter presented a film called Vol Libre at the SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference. It was the world's first film using fractals to generate the graphics. Even now it's impressive to watch!
posted by kliuless at 7:21 AM on August 3, 2009

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