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wolfram (was: art and mathematics)

updated wed 21 jan 04


George Koller on tue 20 jan 04


My memory of all the software shows we did is strange - islands
of hyperactivity in oceans programming time. So out of context
for me. Those shows ripped me from my backroom world into
one where they had names for the stuff I was implementing. We
had some firsts in our specific industry (SPC): bit graphics, database,
and a realtime network some 3 years before first competitor.

It was "run to keep up", I kept up for 20+ years, that was not
especially easy from Milwaukee, WI.


When I called the Wolfram company a couple of years back, Steve
was off in France, but when I explained what I was up to and they
were kind enough to send me two volumes of their GRAPHICA books

1. The Imaginary Made Real: The Art of Michael Trott

2. The Pattern of Beauty: The art of Igor Bakshee

These books feature images such as a wall of never exactly
repeating tiles.... a direct hit for me - someday.

My new software uses EPS as the source. The images in these
books are available from Wolfram in this Directly in this format.
Mathematica will also save images, I understand, direct to this
format. It fascinates me to think that we could potentially go
from a mathematical expression to a clay mural. Computer to
computer.... just how uncool would that be?

I shouldn't ask a horsehair guy? But I do think I understand/
appreciate somethings about variability - and the last word ain't
been wrote about how computers and geeks can do art on


These days I keep thinking about the MASSIVE amounts of
data in Digital Images. A click of a 98.99 Walmart digital
camera and bam! Your uncle Joe probably has one too?
Everybody in the world is a few clicks away from sending
anybody else a digital image.

I can put digital images on clay using Charley the Claybot.

But I can't / and don't want to consider "photorealistic".

The question becomes how to reduce the info, how to
rebuild the image on clay.

Charley is doing it NOW using the Kurt Wild method of

With the current work I print big, trace, scan, posterize,
vectorize, fix/enhance/zoom/tweak in editing package -
then process with my automata - those trained urchins.


blow up the image to something like 12 times - one foot per inch

cut a glass piece exactly the shape of each polygon in the parent image
(vector graphics)

grow algae (set your bits) on each piece of glass

unleash your trained urchin(s) (Java class with sensing/motion

the urchins follow simple rules. (sense, decide, move, start over.... )

like don't go over the edge

go where the algae is & and don't go where the algae ain't


amazing, imho, things happen! You can unleash a bunch of small ones, you
can randomize, you record the movements. These are the movements that
Charley will make later dragging a spinning bur or spitting a colorant,

I've watched urchins bounce off the outside edge like ping pong balls.

I've watched them systematically move inward like somebody cutting grass -
one of the ones I use now.

You can train them to grow and or shrink for optimizing purposes.

Anyway, Bruce, anyone interested I find that talk about Mathematics always
to go in some direction that I don't understand, won't pretent to, WHILE
i've got a
this box of trained Urchins that can do real things using such simple rules.

I didn't make it all through the Wolfram Tome, but I think what I'm doing
is somehow
related. My urchins working with Charley can take the output from something
feed his package, and without anybody doing any arithmetic, we can build
that image
on pieces of clay.

How my software actually works is NOT THE ISSUE..... I know that when I
about it BUT the fact that the technique I use can be so easily modified, I
keep thinking,
should, I would hope, make it interesting for some artist types that would
a chance to trample around in some new arenas.

And I do think art has something to do with rules. Specifically we have,
right here in
Sturgeon Bay, some of the orignal notepads of Henry Moore. I can go
straight down
the road and sit down with one. He did this series on Sheep using a pen
lines. Those
energetic movements bouncing off a outside edge but arching and curving are
I can train an urchin to do. No real heavy math, just some rules.


george koller
sturgeon bay, wi - door county
northport, mi - leelanau county

two great places separated by 100 miles of great lake. and where i just
learned that i can
leave for northport and get the sawdust off of charley..... he makes HBD
frames when he
is not employed scratching and spitting on tiles.