Wednesday, May 29, 2013

More Ancient-Future Artifacts... Bismuth Crystals

Bismuth Crystal, Flickr photo by Ficusdesk

My friend, Bob, sent me strolling the other day, over to a Reality Carnival: Cliff Pickover's amazing, and constantly updated compendium of strange, mathematical-phenomena links; and I hit pay dirt almost immediately... and, discovered more trinkets to add to my Ancient-Future artifact collection.

Bismuth crystals - who knew?

Resembling ancient Meso-American stepped pyramids, or examples of  fossilized organic circuitry (and, I've been known to generate one or two) these tiny beauties are generated from the chemical element, bismuth... one of the first 10 metals to be discovered - known since ancient times - and the most diamagnetic of them all.

It's also an ingredient in Pepto-Bismol!

Bismuth Crystal, Flickr photo by Miriam

Apparently, bismuth crystals are rarely found in nature, but, like the ones pictured, they are grown in labs, or (and, this is the exciting part) can be grown at home on a household stove! (Links are provided at the end of the post.)*

Obviously, the possibilities are not lost on jewelry designers, and the results are items to be coveted.  For some examples, here's a steam-punk pendant by Heather Jordan, and here's Element83's Art-fire selection to drool over.


Above, to your left, is a Flickr shot by Sal Tation, but, speaking of drooling, the second photo above is a close-up shot of this article for sale in a UK Etsy shop. I guess money can by happiness, after all!

Some breathtaking close-ups of bismuth can be found at Paul's Lab.

For more info, photos, and items for sale, try here.

For instructions about how to make your own, try here and here!

*  Warning: Bismuth does have a degree of toxicity, though generally only with high exposure. According to Wiki: 

"Scientific literature concurs that bismuth and most of its compounds are less toxic compared to other heavy metals (lead, antimony, etc.) and that it is not bioaccumulative. They have low solubilities in the blood, are easily removed with urine, and showed no carcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic effects in long-term tests on animals (up to 2 years). Its biological half-life for whole-body retention is 5 days but it can remain in the kidney for years in patients treated with bismuth compounds."

Previously in the Ancient-Future series:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Artifacts from an Ancient-Future... Featuring the Fractals of Tom Beddard (Updated)

Faberge Fractal (from a series) - digital 3D Generative - Tom Beddard, 2012

“I still believe the universe has a beginning in real time, at the big bang. But there’s another kind of time, imaginary time, at right angles to real time, in which the universe has no beginning or end.”

 - Stephen Hawking, from Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, 1984,
Oxford University Press

"The creative process is akin to an exploration into a space that can dramatically change with a slight tweak of one parameter. A fundamental feature of fractal algorithms is recursion, where the output of one iteration is fed back as the input of the next, so often certain features can get ‘amplified’ leading to unexpected and delightful results."

- Tom Beddard via this 1.4 interview, 2012

"Fractals, in other words, bridge the micro to the macro, and do so by the marriage of mathematics to the language of form. Symmetry, on the other hand, has become the catch-word across the board; in all areas of science, as well as art, music, history and societal analysis. Symmetry, in other words, is a very transdimensional term. It describes both the singular entity and the encompassing field. It can take us from a simple geometric figure to a parallel universe. We can follow it from the atomic to the galactic, from the child's "cat's cradle" to the Super-string universe and beyond."

Faberge Fractal (from a series) - digital 3D Generative - Tom Beddard, 2012

It doesn't always work, but, sometimes, when one is looking for a clue to some personal dilemma, or some creative "fix" to jump-start the little grey cells into up-and-running mode, the internet proves to be The Great Provider. It's almost uncanny. At least, that's what I thought when I stumbled upon a post by Cory Doctorow, at the irrepressible, irreplaceable boingboing, the other day.

I'd been mulling over my Ancient-Future meme, having, to some degree, lost my original thread from an idea that originated weeks ago, when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but actual artifacts, embodiments of just what I'm attempting to illuminate!

The artist: Tom Beddard, an English web-developer currently operating his own company Hyper Digital Ltd. out of Edinburgh, Scotland. The artifacts: a series of 3-D generative renderings he refers to as "Faberge Fractals". It was love at first sight.

Naturally, I wasted no time in visiting Tom's Subblue studio, where I was delighted to find more 3D generatives, and, better still, a whole slew of animations, which he describes as: "rendered using raymarching in the same way as the Mandelbox and Mandelbulb fractals. The formulas follow similar processes of folding, scaling, rotating and inverting the space to give the final shape."

Soon, links to his animations will be embedded on the sidebar of this blog, but, for now, Tom has kindly allowed me to include two of his animated gems... which appear at the end of this post. (Note: I've switched out the 2nd video, and replaced it another - I'm a sucker for soundtracks with my fractals - but, have left a link to the previous.)

In Tom's words, taken from Subblue: "I have a fascination with the aesthetics of detail and complexity that is the result of simple mathematical or algorithmic processes. For me the creative process is writing my own software and scripts to explore the resulting output in an interactive manner. The best outcomes are often the least expected!"

Hmmm... well, from the point of view of a primarily analog digital artist - which is, alas, what I am (out of sheer fear and laziness) - my question would be: but, where exactly does the muse crawl in? Because, you know it must.

Ah, well, I did find this quote from Tom (from this article): "You get an intuition about what equations lead to interesting results," he says. "Everything in 'Surface Area' comes from slowly changing just one parameter. And when it moves in and out of phase with some of the other parameters, certain structures pop out: some organic, some geometric, some classical and tree-like."

My guess: the intuition.

Faberge Fractal (from a series) - digital 3D Generative - Tom Beddard, 2012

Then again, looking at Tom's work, my inuition is that the muses - with Tom at the helm - have fashioned themselves ingenious little abodes... or, perhaps complex mechanisms which accomplish strange things when held in ones hands or above ones proverbial noggin. My suggestion to Tom? In two words: 3D printing!

When it comes to the sheer mechanics which produce fractal patterns, however, I am as much in the dark as anyone else. But, I find, the best way to approach fractal art, geometry, or anything else that smacks of complex mathematics, is to simply allow oneself to respond in much the same way as one might when gazing into the bifurcating whorls of a particularly intricate seashell... the awe, the palpable wonder... because the body can subliminally and inherently grasp what the mind - with all its pre-conceived notions and emotions - cannot. The body understands all geometrical configurations because its ability to function depends upon them; from the division of a cell to the algorithmic arrangement of atoms, the body is a complex, exquisitely fine-tuned geometrical expression in motion. In other words, truly "seeing" is a holistic, whole-body experience.

And, a body loves fractals. They are keys to the Transdimensional, and, hence, keys to the Ancient-Future I've been grappling with.

But, you're going to have to read between the lines on that one. I think I've left enough clues. Meanwhile, forget all of that, and let your aetheric body and/or your pineal body (via your eye-sockets) wander amid the fractal animations below. They will thank you for it.

Welcome to an Ancient Future!

Music Box by Tom Beddard - Soundtrack by J. Saunders

Surface Detail (& soundtrack) by Tom Beddard - Previously shown: Window Well 

For more of Beddard's fractal animations, go here... or, visit his blog, and/or his pages on Twitter, and Flickr.

And, do keep an eye on his sites Subblue, and Fractal Lab; he's promising "some very big new stuff " in the near future!

Thanks, Tom!

Next in the Ancient-Future series: More artifacts!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

In Search of An Ancient-Future

Lenticular Cloud, B.C. - Pandora's Box - digital - Dia Sobin, 2008

"It is never any definite experience which gives me pleasure, but always the quality of mystic adventurous expectancy itself - the indefiniteness which permits me to foster the momentary illusion that almost any vista of wonder and beauty might open up, or almost any law of time or space or matter or energy be marvelously defeated or reversed or modified or transcended….that sense of expansion, freedom, adventure, power, expectancy, symmetry, drama, beauty-absorption, surprise, and cosmic wonder (i.e. the illusory promise of a majestic revelation which shall gratify man’s ever-flaming, ever-tormenting curiosity about the outer voids and ultimate gulfs of entity)….the illusion of being poised on the edge of the infinite amidst a vast cosmic unfolding which might reveal almost anything..."

- H. P. Lovecraft, from a letter to James F. Morton, March 12, 1930, borrowed from this beautiful Teeming Brain essay: Autumn longing: H.P. Lovecraft by Matt Cardin


One morning, a few weeks ago, I awoke with a strange "realization"... which came in the form of an actual (albeit silent) declaration: I am an Ancient-Futurist.

Ruling out "divine-intervention" (and various psychological disorders), it must've been the punch-line of something I dreamt. But, that's dreaming for you; fragments remain in the conscious mind, but you've lost the big picture. Then again, in the following morning's dream, I learned the (Monty-Pythonesque) historical "fact" that Medieval swords and shields were cunningly fashioned from bread dough. It wasn't exactly a eureka moment, but, in the dream, it almost made sense.

But, back (or fast-forward) to the Ancient-Future, which, at least, is something to conjure with. In actuality, I've always been attracted to ancient/futuristic themes. The 2008 image (above) "Lenticular Cloud, B.C. - Pandora's Box" is an example, a literal translation of the meme. Carved in stone, Pandora perpetually clutches her box of plagues, while, overhead, an unidentifiable aerial object interacts with an ancient structure. It's fairly easy to decipher. But, that particular morning, my unconscious mind seemed to be referring to something less literal, a fertile abstraction from the subliminal realm that begged for a response.

It's not as if marrying the past with the future is all that weird.  In the timeless, non-local realm of the unconscious, the dead interact with the living, landscapes from one's childhood - those which no longer exist - arise revitalized, uncontaminated by any fate that eventually befell them, and, often, even oneself is clothed in a younger countenance, as if, somewhere along the way, the experience and effects of time passing have lost significance altogether.

Not even the conscious mind is utterly persuaded by the minutes ticking away on a clock. The minute our focus shifts from the time-centered televised-world to some personal place where we are emotionally, intellectually and/or energetically engaged, huge chunks of time can fall away leaving us mystified and perplexed. Where did that time go?

But, then again, what is time to begin with? According to the Realists, "Newtonian time" is a structure and a dimension in itself, in which events occur sequentially. According to the Presentists, only the present is real and neither the past nor the future exist. From the standpoint of Eternalism, time is also a dimension, married to space in a "block universe". But, according to this plan, although every moment is real and relative to the observer, time does not "pass"; it is a static vista, and neither the past not the future can be modified.

Practically speaking, the measurement of time is a gentlemen's agreement - its increments, as we know them, are fabrications. We experience the passing of time as growth and decay - the old and the new - now and then... but, through all of it, time has no substance, no physical structure, no meaning in itself. In that sense, it's both subjective and relative. We record it in our lives by the events that occur synchronistically. In that way, time is a series of events that coincide with a designated incremental structure.

Chronometry - the measurement of time - is the the time we're most familiar with as we change our calendars and check our watches. Periodic time covers the cycles of the moon and certain biological aspects of organisms. Sidereal time is measured by the stars. Judeo-Christian time is generally linear with a beginning and end.

Obviously, the Ancient-Future could not exist in a linear time frame. It has more of a chance within the philosophical concepts of the East where time is cyclical and quantic. Or, better still, couched in actual quantum descriptions of time - not to be confused with a Quantum Clock - specifically that of quantum entanglement. However, here we're referring to a particle's speed of light - that is, Planck time - in a theory that proposes time is continuous; or, utilizing  the Chronon, which is a proposed quantum unit of time relative to a particle's charge and mass.

from the Wired article: Quantum Entanglement Could Stretch Across Time

Ultimately, the Ancient-Future - and/or the necessary bridge between the two - is forged In the creative imagination: in the musings of science fiction writers - and the quote from H.P. Lovecraft above is key - the diagrams of sacred geometers, the organic landscapes of fractal artists, or by anyone harkening way, way back to some speculative mysterious source (while often using a timeless, fundamental set of tools, such as mathematics), to steal a glimpse of an equally as speculative and mysterious future. But, the key word here is mysterious; that unknown factor which occasionally pulls us out our televised-world-induced stupor to confront the sheer magnitude of our collective ignorance. There is something almost sacred about this sense of the mysterious (and our ignorance!), but, not in any officially religious sense. In other words: it can't be googled.

Which is not to say I didn't try googling Ancient-Futurist/Futurism... but, apart from some mysterious social networker, an electronic musical composition or two, and another scary Christian hybrid theology, I drew a blank. There is Retro-futurism, which is interesting but not quite the same. There are a few jewelry designers using Ancient-Future as a descriptive term (one or two whose designs resonate). There are theories in the speculative range, such as the paleocontact hypothesis (a guilty pleasure). Design-wise, there's Steam-punk and Cyber-punk, of course... which sometimes hints, stylistically, at what I'm trying to describe; as does Futurism, in a marginal sense.

And, yet, what was I really referring to by the term that fateful morning? "Days of Future Past"? Or, perhaps these "Days of Future Past" (which can be found here in its entirety). Histories of things to come? Archaeology in the inner-galactal realm? Say, a type of psychic archaeology, if you will. Or maybe something as tangible as the event photographed (via the Hubble) below, an actual collision of galaxies, 330 million light-years away (and a fate predicted for own galaxy in the far future...).

Stay tuned. Further explorations will ensue!

When galaxies collide... found here.

Note: It has recently come to my attention that, synchronistically, the ever-intrepid (and ever-prolific) Tam B, over at the previously mentioned blog, seems to be tackling a similar set of themes from a variety of perspectives. But, no, she and I are not comparing notes, and we are arriving at our destinations independently. Meanwhile, check out her latest post: a collection of some real-time ancient-futuristic dwellings!