Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Deviant Dozen: Fractals

The death has been announced of maverick mathematician Benoît B Mandelbrot (so maverick that the B doesn't actually stand for anything) in Massachusetts, aged 85.

Mandelbrot coined the phrase Fractal Geometry and inadvertently became one of the leading inspirations in the world of computer graphics.

The Mandelbrot set that takes his name is, VERY basically, the graphical visualisation of a mathematical set of points forming a complex quadratic polynomial.

Or, in English, maths that looks pretty.

The Mandelbrot set.

What Mandelbrot discovered is that the more you zoom in on the outline of something, the more complex it appears.  The outline pattern of the Mandelbrot set repeats itself perfectly to infinity.

Mandelbrot zoom

Mandelbrot fractals became a staple of 1990s computer graphics, especially surrounding the rave scene.  Now though, it's a much more sophisticated artform and, to commemorate Dr Mandelbrot, here are 12 of the best examples of fractal graphics as seen on DeviantArt.  Click to see them full sized.

Mandelbrot obituary,
Mandelbrot set on Wikipedia.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Flach Photography

I'm not much of a photographer (less F Stops, more What The F Stops) but I've really been enjoying the Channel 5 series How To Take Stunning Pictures.  I know - Channel 5 In Quality Programme Shock.

In this series, top professional photographers give 2 amateurs a master class in taking a particular type of photo, with a different specialisation each week.  The latest episode was about pets and starred acclaimed animal photographer Tim Flach.

The samples of his work that they showed were truly amazing.

Bats are one of his earlier specialities.

He has an incredible eye for detail and texture.

 Although his photos are quite staged, they do bring out the beauty and personality of the subject matter.

One photo in particular made me whimper with joy and, in looking for it online, it turns out to be the cover of his latest book.

As you'll no doubt come to learn, I have a sliiiiiight obsession with Hungarian Pulik.  To the point where I know the plural of Puli is Pulik, not Pulis.  Oh to have one of those gorgeous dreadlocked doggies...

The book, Dogs Gods, celebrates canines in all their shapes and forms.  It explores how they've bonded with us, how they've worked for us and why we have such a deep psychological connection with them.

His previous book, Equus, is an equally stunning exploration of our other favourite working companion, the horse, from pampered ponies to wild zebras.

Equus is also available as a 2011 calendar.

All these products can be bought from Amazon at up to 63% off.

For more of Tim's amazing animals, have a look at his website.  Actually, don't be in any rush to enter the site, as you're greeted by a very entertaining splash screen which you might want to let run for a bit.

He also has upcoming exhibitions in London and St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex in December and January.

• Additional credit: Dog Milk

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Simon's Cat in Cat Chat

Simon's Cat is a series of animations by Simon Tofield that pops up from time to time on YouTube.

If you love cats, Simon's Cat will remind you why you love cats.

If you hate cats, Simon's Cat will remind you why you hate cats.

This is the latest in the series, where the cat meets a boring hedgehog.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Friday, 8 October 2010

Welcome to Walsall

We have a concrete hippo by the market. No-one knows why. But we love him.

We've all sat on him and met our mates round him. First law of Walsall - don't diss the hippo.

The story of the Walsall Hippo from BBC News.
The Walsall Hippo Appreciation Society on Flikr. (Even though some of these are real hippos - obviously missing the point.)
The Walsall Hippo Statue Appreciation Society on Facebook.

Thursday, 7 October 2010


Hello and thanks for joining me and my able assistant, Kevin the Octopus, for the opening entry in Val's Electric Scrapbook.

I'm forever ripping pages out of newspapers to keep because I love an article, a photo or even an advert.  So now I'm doing the same online and making a collection of some of the best things I find floating round cyberspace.

There'll be art, design, photography and videos, but none of the boring, worthy sort.  You'll get stuff like this...

Natural wonders!

Powerful advertising!

Must-have products!

Awe-inspiring photography!

That's just a taster of all the amazing delights Val's Electric Scrapbook will have in store for you.  Make sure you don't miss out!  Subscribe to this blog or click my Twitter or Facebook buttons on the right to get all the updates within nanoseconds of them happening.

Hang on a bit...

...don't go away now...

...because you lucky readers get a...


Yes, like any great new publication, Val's Electric Scrapbook comes with a very special free welcome gift.

It's your very own cut-out-and-keep Freaky Staring Dragon!

The dragon was inspired by the work of the American illusionist Jerry Andrus and designed by toy company Binary Arts to celebrate the 1998 "Gathering for Gardner", which is a bi-annual celebration of puzzles and illusions held in Atlanta, named after the mathematician Martin Gardner.

The pattern for the dragon is hosted online by toy and puzzle site Grand IllusionsClick here to open the PDF page.

Simply print your dragon off on a sheet of A4 (in fact you might want to print 2 so it's easier to refer to the directions), cut it out, fold it and stick it together.  Make sure you follow the instructions EXACTLY TO THE LETTER - even if they sound wrong!

Once assembled, place your dragon a couple of feet away from you, so you can see its whole face, then look it in the eyes.

Be warned!  Once it has you in its evil gaze, watch what happens when you dare try to move!

Tips for best effect:

1) Place it somewhere that's above your own eyeline.

2) Light it so there aren't any strong shadows across its face (I have mine in front of a table lamp).

3) If you're struggling to see the effect, try closing one eye.

Grand Illusions have a page dedicated to the dragon, including a video of how it works.  But I'm not going to spoil the surprise.  Just try making it and see what it can do!

Have fun (if not nightmares)!

DISCLAIMER: Val's Electric Scrapbook accepts no responsibility for any psychological trauma caused by your free cut-out-and-keep Freaky Staring Dragon.  If it sends you bonkers, that's your look-out, buster.