Windows on a Parallel Universe: Exploring Fractal Planets

Friday, January 19, 2001 - 9:00am - 10:00am
Keller 3-180
Ken Musgrave (Pandromeda)
The time has at last arrived when existing, readily accessible technology can provide a window on a parallel universe. This window will initially look out onto a single, highly realistic, random fractal planet. We have the ability to explore this planet in real time, and to image it in non-real time with pixel-sized detail, at unlimited resolution. The dilation symmetry inherent in random fractal models of natural phenomena such as mountains and clouds allows us to implement arbitrary level of detail when imaging a planet built from them. Arbitrary level of detail frees the viewer to roam, to move as close or as far from the planet as desired, without significant aliasing or loss of detail. In early 2001 we will deliver such exploration tools over the Internet in the form of a free transporter program and an ~$200 generator program for authoring new planets, both of which will run on a fast home computer. The high-dimensional vector of parameter values that completely specifies a given scene constitutes transporter coordinates that effectively beam the viewer to a given place on a given planet, that place being simply a point in the hyperspace of possible parameter values. The realism of these random planets provides a real sense of being there. Each image represents a theorem proved in a formal system; what one is exploring is inherent in the logic that the program embodies. These planets are not built by hand; they exist in the timeless truth of mathematical logic. The planets are not an end in themselves, but rather a context for content, from shopping malls to artificial ecosystems. When the technology matures to the point that the full non-real time realism is available in an immersive, interactive environment we will have cyberspace, the future of the Internet.