Sierpinski #2

A year and a half ago I heard Jared Tarbell speak at FlashBelt ’08 in Minneapolis about the circle and its influence on his work. One of his flash constructions caught my attention. It was a generative, cyclical pattern based on work by artist and IBM researcher Martin Wattenberg. Nodes turn on and off moving around a circle, then split and converge along a very specific bisecting shortcut to create a beautiful and surprising pattern.

I rebuilt it in Processing (view it here). After toying with it a bit, I realized the circle nodes can expand or contract based on Fibonacci numbers. The first I built had 64 outer nodes, but it easily expands up to 126, 256, etc or down to 32 and 16. Breaking each node cycle down further revealed an underlying structure related to Sierpinski fractals. It’s amazing how interconnected these fractal systems are—and nature is chuck full of them.

I built a kinetic sculpture based on the pattern. Hardware struggles limited the final node count to 32 without a shortcut—though the SSC-32 servo controller saved a lot of headache. After much time (and money), wrestling with servos and power supplies, the end result payed off. I have plans for taking this further and possibly making it interactive. The video is the second physical construction. The first destroyed itself when I turned it on.

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