Oct. 16, 2009


October 6th marked the tenth anniversary of the day I downloaded UltraFractal (http://www.ultrafractal.com/) -- version 2.0, to be exact -- and became instantly hooked. Wow, how time flies!

I've spent the past week and a half exploring the Mandelbrot set again hunting minbrots, and some of the results of that exploration are interspersed throughout what follows.

I became enamoured of fractals back in, I believe, the mid-80s after watching a TV program discussing the discovery of fractal math, probably on PBS (I don't think the program was The Colors of Infinity, which strikes me as being more recent, as well as featuring fractal imagery that seems more sophisticated than what I recall seeing), but not being in possession of any kind of computer or knowledge of advanced mathematics I didn't expect to ever be able to pursue my interest and more or less filed it away in the back of my mind as "maybe someday".

Fast forward to 1999 and the purchase of my first home computer in July followed by an Internet connection a month later. I wandered all over the Web, marvelling at the vast-and-brand-new-to-me world that existed more or less side by side with the "real" one.

I visited all kinds of sites, and ended up visiting the forum of a magazine site where I saw a discussion thread inviting the participants to tell what kinds of things they wanted to see more of on the Web. Someone posted that they wanted to see more coffee and soda machines and, being the curious monkey I am and wondering what on Earth they could be talking about, I followed a link that led to a site where a coffee room in some office somewhere was being live-streamed to the Web.

After a few head-scratching moments (why would anyone want to watch a coffee room, I wondered), I noticed a link on the same page to an online explorer of the Mandelbrot set. It's still online; here's a link in case anyone reading is interested: www.softlab.ntua.gr/miscellaneous/mandel/mandel.html. That page had a link to Spanky's site -- it's still online too, but hasn't been updated in a long, long time: spanky.triumf.ca/ -- and the realization that not only was it possible to generate fractals at home, there were people out there making art with them!

This led to quite a few hours looking at various online fractal galleries, including Linda Allison's (https://www.fractalus.com/gumbycat/) beautiful FractInt work, followed by what turned out to be a fruitless attempt to run FractInt on my computer.

Frustrated but not ready to give up now that my fractal appetite had been stoked, I surfed around some more and at some point stumbled across Janet Parke's amazing UltraFractal galleries (http://www.parkenet.org/jp/). Well and truly enthralled, I followed a link from her Resources page to the UF website, downloaded UF and started exploring, and joined the UF mailing list a week later.

Over the past decade I've seen lots of amazing fractal art, produced in many styles and sensibilities by many different people from all over the world and don't expect that to change any time soon, not least because of the intrinsic beauty of the Mandelbrot and Julia sets which have served as the jumping-off point for so much exploration by so many.

Add to this the variety of fractal-generating software available for home users, the generosity of the UltraFractal formula authors' community, the creativity and curiosity of the many users of fractal software, and the many people ambling around the Web whose interest is just waiting to be snagged by something they've never encountered before, and it seems to me the future of fractal art remains particularly bright.

... more later.