The Quest for the Gnarl
The best things you can see in a computer are gnarly things.
Over the last eight years I've slowly learned how to create gnarly
My first attempt to write a gnarly computer program
was Spiro, a simple Pascal spirograph program.
Spiro isn't really gnarly by today's standards, it's more the old 1960's
mainframe notion of gnarly, the kind of stuff you see in the background
in lame things like Star Trek.
Soon I moved on to the more expressive language of C and to better programs
using more nonlinear feedback. Where Spiro is based on a simple sine wave
function, Vine uses a nested sine function: the
sine of the sine. The more complicated formula produces greater gnarl. The
Vine patterns are straight out of the Book of Kells.
To get way gnarly you need more than a complicated formula, you need a complicated
computational approach. Two good methods are iteration --- repeating a computation
many times --- and parallelism --- doing lots of similar computations at
the same time and combining the results.
Julgnarl uses iteration, and Calife
uses parallelism. Julgnarl make shapes so gnarly that at first they look
like road kill. But then you realize that the shapes are high-order fractals,
and that the pieces of the shapes resemble the shape as a whole. These are
quartic (as opposed to merely quadratic or cubic) Julia sets, by the way,
and you saw them here first!
Calife shows one-dimensional cellular automata: spaces in which virtual
computers are lined up like beads on a wire, all of them computing in parallel.
What makes Calife even gnarlier is that the program uses methods of artificial
life to actually evolve new patterns on its own.
The gnarly viewpoint is about more than just computer hacking. For me, it's
an inspiration and a method for literary creations like my novel The
Hacker And The Ants or my two-novel collection Live
Currently I'm groping towards multimedia methods of combining cultural and
the computeresque gnarl. This theater page is
an example of my quest!
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