Monday, October 27, 2008

Deep Deep Zooming

Neurons (Microscopy)


[Microscopy by Dr. L. Blood]

I pursued nature to her hiding place.
--Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Many things previously called chaos are now known to follow subtle fractal laws of behavior. So many things turned out to be fractal that the word "chaos" itself (in operational science) had redefined, or actually for the FIRST time Formally Defined as following inherently unpredictable yet generally deterministic rules based on nonlinear iterative equations. Fractals are unpredictable in specific details yet deterministic when viewed as a total pattern - in many ways this reflects what we observe in the small details and total pattern of life in all its physical and mental varieties, too.
--Patterns of Visual Math

I have always enjoyed seeing fractal patterns and forms come to light from exploring the smallest caverns of nature. And I thought it might be fun to take a short tour through a few galleries of microscopy.

The neural patterns seen in the above photograph I see regularly in programs like Sterling-ware. The XTALENT Image Gallery at Nanoworld, an Australian research site devoted to microscopy and microanalysis, includes a gallery of artistically modified work.

Feather of a Dominican Cardinal by Ian C. Walker

Feather of a Dominican Cardinal

[Microscopy by Ian C. Walker.]

The feather and fern forms in the image above have turned up for me in Vchira, Fractal Zplot, and Fractal Explorer. The image above was seen in the 2005 Nikon Small World photomicrography competition. The site contains extensive galleries of the competition's winning work going back to 1977.

Petal of a Cowslip Flower

Surface of the Petal of a Cowslip Flower

[Microscopy seen on Eye of Science]

The image above illustrates a self-similar replication I've sometimes encountered in XenoDream. Postwork in Bryce also produces a comparable effect. The image galleries at Eye of Science are comprehensive and include microscopy work of crystals, fungus, bacteria/viruses, and botanical structures.

Dhofer 019 (Meteorite)

[Image by Tom Phillips]

Ultra Fractal work, like that of Samuel Monnier, sometimes looks like the image above. Moreover, some glass and distortion Photoshop filters can produce corresponding effects. There are over 1000 stunning images to be seen in Tom Phillips' microscopic meteorite galleries.

Today's tour only scratches the surface of microscopy galleries found on the Net. Here are a few more to sample:
Molecular Expressions Photo Gallery
Olympus Microscopy Resource Center
Micrographia: A Light Microscopy Resource
Digital Image Galleries at the Light Microscope Forum (check out "Polarized Light")
Gallery at the TLL Microscopy and Imaging Facility
Microscopy Links on Galleries
Links at
Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc.

Next time: Deep Deep Smashing!!

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Fractal Web Rings Are For Suckers!

(photo by Kyle Flood)

Yes, the internet has changed quite a bit over the years and the only purpose those web rings serve anymore is to drain away visitors from your site and pour them into the web ring. Joining a web ring and putting their link banner on your site wouldn't be much different than giving an advertising company permission to put a billboard on your front lawn -- or offering to do it for them!

They probably weren't designed to work that way. They were probably designed to link together sites that had a similar theme and thereby help people interested in that sort of thing to jump from one site to another easily. They were designed to help people to easily find fractal art sites.

A great idea -- back in the old days! Back then (late 90's) search engines had funny names like Alta Vista and Dogpile and they didn't work as well as they do today, especially when it came to finding obscure things like Fractal Art. Also, there weren't very many Fractal Art sites back then either.

Now it's different; 95% of the sites on the fractal web rings are now either old junk or new junk -- and there's lots of them! Take a stroll on either of them, the Fractal Artist's Ring or the Infinite Fractal Loop (it still has a cool name).

Why no link? Why didn't I provide a link?

Just Google the name, you moron. Which brings me to part two of my tour de force: Google is your best friend.

That's right. If you want to find stuff these days, even Fractal Art sites, then just go to Google. Google does a better job of screening out all the garbage for you than the web ring "administrators" will. The web rings will let almost any site into the group in order to pull more traffic into the ring, that's why they're so bad now. Google however uses brainless algorithms to separate the wheat from the chaff and does a much better job.

Of course that's the point: Google's job is giving users useful links and not just a bunch of stuff that's supposed to be good sites. If Google directed people to the sorts of sites that the fractal art web rings did, then Google would be about as useless as the web rings are today.

Don't believe me?! Alright. Let's do an experiment.

Experiment #1
Go to Google and type in the search string: "fractal art the stuff that's garbage" (but without the quotes). Actually, you can just click on the hyperlinked text.

What's at the top of the list? Ha, ha, ha! The Infinite Fractal Poop Loop! That's the filtering power of Google folks!

Okay, let's be scientific and do at least one more example.

Experiment #2
Go to Google and type in the search string: "the most disgusting pile of fractal art ever" (again, without the quotes).

Well, not so good this time. I happen to like that site that's at the top there. But it's still faster than slogging through the junk on those fractal "art" web rings.

Since that experiment wasn't as conclusive as the first, let's do one more so we still look like good scientists for when we go applying for government funding next year.

Experiment #3
Go to Google... blah, blah, blah: "fractal art that is just plain junk and smells bad too" (remember, without the quotes).

Hmmn. I don't know. That one at the top of the search results is the best fractal blog around -- and the only one too. I still think Google is your best bet for finding better fractal art online and avoiding all the mediocre stuff. At the very least, Orbit Trap will help you avoid the trash.

~~~~ Update: Things have changed. The blog posting has changed the original Google search results for the search strings listed and the sites that Google placed at the top of the search pages are now in second place. Even when it comes to having the most garbage the IFL has become second-rate -- overnight! That's cruel. Oh how the mighty have fallen. What's worse is that Orbit Trap is the one which unseated them in the search results in only a matter of hours. That's the way it is these days; blog or be blogged!

Stand still and you get eaten or stepped on. Or worse.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Stone-Cold Fractals – An introduction to the lapidary arts from a fractal perspective

(Editorial Note: This is our first Guest Posting. Orbit Trap welcomes submissions for Guest Postings from anyone on any fractal related topic. Publication is not guaranteed and is solely at the discretion of the editors. If you feel you are in a position to offer some special insight on a fractal related topic and would like to see it published here on Orbit Trap, then send us an email.)

Fractal imagery approximates natural processes and structures, while fractal art incorporates the human connection to nature. In neither case, does the final design bridge the gap between reality and viewpoint, but like a poem each resonates with inarticulate meaning and substance.

(Editor's Note: Many examples of the author's stone carvings can be seen at his online gallery.)

For thousands of years, stone has been used by man in numerous ways, initially for shelter, tools and weapons, then later for ornamental and spiritual purposes. It is the fractal characteristics of stone that are of interest here. By and large precious gems such as diamonds, emeralds and rubies are chosen for their clarity and brilliance rather than any fractal inclusions. Semi-precious gemstones such as agate, lapis and turquoise do have definite fractal appearances, and may be considered “real” fractals insofar as the definition applies. Banding, self-similarity and a fractal dimension greater than three are obvious in their makeup.

Take the case of banding, which everyone familiar with the Mandelbrot set is well acquainted with in respect to the outer "escape" zones. But distinct banding in computer-generated fractals is a coloring option that a limited palette produces on the very outer bands surrounding the fractal set. As the number of colors increases to 24 bit or a true color palette, and as you zoom into the fractal, the distinct banding is replaced by velvety zones of connection among the whorls. This according to a purely escape-time coloring scheme. With other coloring schemes devised to take advantage of the extended palette, the banding disappears entirely. Then we are entering into the scope of fractal art, beyond the lowly definition of "fractal." Compare this to the banding in onyx, which is caused by turbulence in the earth's crust, fluidic motion of the elements which seeps into the very structure of the inanimate, over a period of thousands or millions of years. Mandelbrot’s loom pales in comparison.

Self-similarity is clearly displayed on the outside of botryoidal stones such as malachite. Cross-cutting shows the internal banding, which can either appear like the rings of a redwood, or as a 2-D Brownian soup, depending on which direction the cut is made. Note that the fractal terms used to describe the characteristics of malachite, cut and uncut are only approximations of the real substance.

Artistic applications of stones abound, from wall coverings and fences, domes and arches, to jewelry and statues. Today’s stone masons and sculptors have an extensive variety of materials to work with from all over the world. With the advent of modern sculpting tools, such as Dremel and Foredom flex tools, almost anyone can learn to carve semi-precious stones. But like fractal art, only a small percentage of crafts persons will approach artistic excellence.

Almost all fractal programs can generate a variety of fractals resembling natural phenomenon. Would fractals deserve the same amount of interest if they did not? Euclidean geometry with its straight lines and predictable curves is clearly a man-made notion and the anti-thesis of fractal or non-deterministic geometry. Both geometries have their uses. By the same token, any fractal image can be layered with other fractal images or doctored with exotic filters, and depending on the skill of the artist, a new image incorporating the sense of the artist is created. Fractal programs create fractals; art is created by fractal artists using whatever tools or materials they choose to use (including rocks and paint programs.) No program or set of programs can infuse into an artist's work what is in the artist's temperament, unless one is willing to see outside the basic fractal and apply what's needed to humanize it. The idea that an image of a so-called "pure" fractal can be considered art is akin to judging a sprout a mature tree, or a beach pebble an artifact.

Terry W. Gintz

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