The other day, I went to look something up in Wikipedia, and noticed that their featured image was a thing called a Mandelbulb.
Ages ago, back at the tail end of the ’80s, an actuary I worked with, who was into “recreational math” (whatever that is), introduced me to the Mandelbrot set fractal. He was good at explaining things to the mathematically-challenged, and I have it by the tail, but not well enough to explain it to anybody else. What, for me, was more interesting than the math, was the ability to generate these gorgeous, colorful pictures.
The Mandelbrot Set
There is infinite detail around the edges of the black area, and you can zoom in on an area and create some amazing images.
The above images were generated by Fractal Explorer 2.02
So this Mandelbulb thing caught my attention. It’s a 3D fractal.
The Mandelbulb 3D Fractal
I did a search and found a package called Mandelbulber which can be used to zoom in on areas of the bulb and generate some interesting, sometimes organic-looking images.
The above images were generated by Mandelbulber (Windows) 1.18.
Mandelbulber runs on several operating systems and I tried out both the Linux and Windows versions. The Windows version seems faster and produced better images, but that may be because my graphics card manufacturer has never bothered to write a driver for Linux.
Image rendering really warmed up my CPUs. I have an old PC with only two cores and they were both running at 100%. Oddly, there was hardly a blip on the GPU, so the process must be mathematically intense.
I’ve only been messing with this for half a day and not at all with the color possibilities. There are some fabulous images (and an article) by Daniel White, one of the guys that came up with the formula, at http://www.skytopia.com/project/fractal/mandelbulb.html. Arthur C. Clarke explains the Mandelbrot Set quite well (and in plain English) in his The Ghost from the Grand Banks and there’s a book by James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science, that also discusses the Mandelbrot Set. Unless you’re into “recreational math,” don’t bother with the Wikipedia articles. They are composed entirely of mind-numbing formulae.
This is so fun!