• 03.09.11

Fly Above a World of Fractals, Right in Your Browser [Video]

Tom Beddard’s free, open-source application lets you swoop, scale, and fly over infinitely detailed mathematical landscapes, right in your web browser.

Fly Above a World of Fractals, Right in Your Browser [Video]

Tom Beddard‘s generative fractal art made quite a splash when we wrote about it in January. But that was just a prelude to Beddard’s open-source application “Fractal Lab,” which gives anyone the power to explore 3-D fractal-planetoids for free, right in their web browsers. Check it out:


Well, maybe not anyone. Technically speaking, Fractal Lab will only work in a WebGL-enabled web browser like Google Chrome or Firefox 4 beta. And you also need a relatively powerful graphics card to get all that seamless, unpixilated gorgeosity to explode on your screen. Still, Beddard didn’t intend the app only to work on overclocked supercomputers: “Machines that are maybe a couple of years old might struggle a little,” he tells Co.Design, “but the video was recorded on a recent 27″ iMac, and the software was developed on a previous generation MacBook Pro.” That off-the-shelf PCs can do this kind of major mathematical-graphics crunching at all, much less in real time over the web, is pretty amazing.


In case you didn’t know, fractals aren’t just 1990s-rave-poster artifacts — they’re self-similar mathematical objects whose parts bear an uncanny resemblance to the whole. That’s why you can “zoom in” on the famous Mandelbrot set and eventually you’ll end up right back where you started. Doing super-deep-dives on the fractals in Beddard’s software might cause your computer to explode, but you’ll probably see a lot of amazing stuff before it bites the dust!




So go install Google Chrome, fire up Fractal Lab, and see how far you can get. Just make sure you have a decent graphics card, says Beddard. “It’s all about the graphics card.”

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About the author

John Pavlus is a writer and filmmaker focusing on science, tech, and design topics. His writing has appeared in Wired, New York, Scientific American, Technology Review, BBC Future, and other outlets.