14 May 2006

Check out my Mandelbrot Set!

Hello. There are long & short versions of this story.

The short one: In a funny double use of the word "set," I posted a photo set of Mandelbrot Sets on Flickr. Haha. They are really pretty!

The longer one: Lately I've been somewhat obsessed with a number of math & physics questions. I guess, as a humanities gal, these things mystify me. But I'm also interested in overlapping vocabularies and concepts--i.e. radio astronomy meets the radio countdown, etc... More recently, I've been thinking about the idea of chaos. It's an important concept, in math & physics, but also in the social realm. (Obviously these realms aren't mutually exclusive!) I'm basically researching the positive outcomes & aesthetics of chaos. This is part of my larger project on Disorder, in which I'm currently writing about the relationship between social disorder (as a form of protest) and disorder in a work of art (ie remixing, hacktivism, etc).

See, I told you it was a long story.... Anyway, this has all led me to the Mandelbrot set. The images in my photo set are visualizations of the scenario most simply describe here (the earlier link has more math details @ wikipedia):

The Mandelbrot set, named after Benoit Mandelbrot, is a fractal. Fractals are objects that display self-similarity at various scales. Magnifying a fractal reveals small-scale details similar to the large-scale characteristics. Although the Mandelbrot set is self-similar at magnified scales, the small scale details are not identical to the whole. In fact, the Mandelbrot set is infinitely complex. Yet the process of generating it is based on an extremely simple equation involving complex numbers.

Mandelbrot visualizations are all, naturally, quite similar, and yet can be totally diverse--though they are almost always beautiful. There is also a whole culture of nerds like me for whom fractals & computers go hand-in-hand. Computers allow us to visualize these things in new way, and share them with friends. In fact, check out this funny Friendster-inspired Fracster site, in which people identify themselves in relation to their favorite parts of Mandelbrot set!!

Anyway, as I've mentioned before, I also have a bit of a drag & drop problem, so posting 272 of my favorite Mandelbrot images online allows me to share them with you (returning them to their natural homes online), while purging them from my computer. Enjoy! By default, or for good measure (haha-math joke!) there are also a few Julia's in there, too... Oh, and if you do some secret Flickr hacking, you'll find that some of these are really amazing animated gifs!


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