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Fractal Tree by TaraRoys Fractal Tree by TaraRoys
"What is a fractal?"

A little girl looks at me, with questions in her eyes. She's cute as a button, much cuter than the rest of my customers at the faire, but the question and the blank stare that greets me when I tell them that I do fractal art is the same.

"Well," I say, pointing at my pictures. "This is fractal art."

"Oh. COOOL!" She says in that ten-year-old tone reserved things made of pure awesome, like new comics books or particularly large squishy worms. The next question comes.

"How do you make them?"

How am I to answer? I've tried different explanations throughout the day. When I say "Linear Algebra," eyes start to glaze over and wander away. "The Chaos Game," is met with a wise nod and smile that says, "I don't know what you're talking about, but it sounds cool." "A program called Apophysis." satisfies many, but frustrates me, because telling the program is like a painter saying they did it with a brush- sure, that's how I did it, but not really how. It's one of those statements that seems to say everything but really explains nothing.

Besides. She's 10. She wants to know the heart of the matter. Complex math can wait until, say, twenty.

So how to I capture the heart of a fractal? I gaze off into the forest, groping for answers.

Inspiration strikes like a bolt of lightning to the tallest tree.

"Imagine a tree," I say.

"Uh-huh?" She says.

"Got the tree in your head?" I say, smiling encouragingly.

"Yes!" she fires back.

"All right." I say. "Break off a branch of the tree, stick it upright in the ground. What does it look like?"

Her face screws up in thought. After a second she says, "A tree."

"A smaller tree." I agree. "Now, take that tree, break off another branch, stick it in the ground." I say. "What does it look like?"

"A smaller tree!" She says triumphantly.

"Yep!" I say, grinning. Such enthusiasm should be rewarded with a smile. "Now. Take that tree, and break off a branch of it, stick it in the ground again. What's it look like?"

"A smaller tree!" She says, not smiling anymore. She's beginning to get bored.

"Yep!" I say. "So. That tree is made up of branches that look like a tree. That branch is made of branches that look like a tree. What's a tree made of?"

She stops. She has to think about this for a little while.

"Smaller trees?"

"Yep!" I say. "And when something is made up of smaller copies of itself, that's a fractal."

"Oooh!" She says. "COOOOL!" In that ten-year-old tone reserved for new comic books, really icky long worms, or, apparently, fractals.

She smiles at me and skips her way into the crowd.

Note: This explanation works particularly well for ordinary people. Math majors, computer science majors, engineers, and tech nerds in general either think WAYYY too literally or way too hard about it. "It's a branch stuck in the ground." "It's a stick" "It's a twig." "It's a binary tree." "Is this a trick question?" NO! It's just a smaller TREE!

This is .gif animation, so download it to see the glory. :)
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a-to-b Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014   General Artist
I enjoyed the story :-).
TaraRoys Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2014
Thank you!
Divina-H-ART Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2012
when will it end
debdj Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2011
Trance-Plant Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2010
Very interesting!!!
IDeviant Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Nice explanation! I wish I'd had this to hand yesterday, attempting to define a fractal to a friend who was keen to learn Apophysis. I made the usual mistake of saying "an entity demonstrating self-similarity across scales" and received the appropriate blank look :D
sfprincess Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2009
That's a great story to go with this fractal. Glad to see some more of your stuff as well! :)
Pumakitten Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
That has got to be the best explanation ever! nice fractal and animation. Well done! :clap:
esintu Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
:lol: nice explanation, i should try that. and comp and math majors and tech freaks and geeks better know about fractals to deserve the mentioned titles :lol:
penny5775 Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2009
Too cool!!
Dragonsoulj Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Kickass. Got to love fractals.
Uncle-Keeps Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2009  Student
XD nice show of the repetitious sub-divisibility :hug:
Falcross Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wow that's so cool..what program did you use to make the fractal?
TaraRoys Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2009
It's an apophysis fractal.
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Submitted on
April 19, 2009
Image Size
987 KB


18 (who?)