British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell once said, "Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty." One look at these computer-generated images from Daniel Brown and Russell's words come to life.
Brown, a London-based designer, programmer and artist who specializes in digital technology and interactive design uses custom algorithms to "grow" gorgeous floral artwork that will blow your mind. Here are 11 of our favorites.
It all started in 1999, when Brown demonstrated a computer program and mathematical model that used special code to produce fractals. The resulting animations were almost hypnotic. "It was the first time I realized that non-technical people could aesthetically appreciate mathematical formulas if they saw them 'come alive,'" he said.
Brown created the pieces in this slideshow for the Victoria and Albert Museum and the D'Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum, as well as projects for corporate clients. A swimming accident in 2003 broke Brown's spinal cord, causing paralysis. As a result, he uses a finger-splint device and a large track pad to operate a computer. Even without this added challenge, his flowers are uniquely beautiful; no two look exactly the same.
Several years ago Brown produced a three-story-high projection of flowers for the Victoria and Albert Museum. Each petal generated contained combinations of images from the museum's textile collection. The work was named in honor of D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, a pioneering bio-mathematician known for his 1917 book On Growth and Form.
Last year, the D'Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum at the University of Dundee in Scotland contacted Brown after seeing his Victoria and Albert Museum work and asked him to create a piece for them. Brown said he used generative design to create the realistic flowers for this newer exhibition, which went up last spring. Each flower shape is determined by an algorithm that is then altered to take into account natural variation.
Another mathematical formula is used to generate the color and texture applied to the shapes. Each arrangement is grown over about 50 seconds, resembling time-lapse photography that's been sped up. "After this, they fade out and another arrangement is created," he said.
Brown's original pieces only used two-dimensional computer graphics that mimicked a 3-D look. However, in the past few years, computer technology has evolved so that he can simulate surfaces, behaviors and lighting in real time.
Sometimes Brown produces a flower that even amazes him. "I can't work out the particular parameters that would have gone into it, and am left scratching my head," he said. "Because the flowers regenerate every minute or so, it's a fleeting moment, and there is something almost poetic knowing that no one will ever see that one flower again."
D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson was a Scottish scientist and scholar who took various natural processes such as evolution and tried to question them mathematically. He sought to discover out how differences in shape and form between two genetically related species could be mathematically modeled, Brown explained.
He also wondered about physical processes like weather, and how they could change one shape into another. Getting contacted by the D'Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum was the ultimate honor, Brown said. "I couldn't think of a more fitting thing to do for one of my scientific heroes."
Brown's flowers are so realistic that occasionally museum visitors won't realize they're computer graphics and will insist on asking him what kind of flowers they are. Other reactions are more visceral.
"When my work was on show in the Victoria and Albert Museum, young children -- toddlers rather -- would run up to the wall it was being projected on and try and hug it," he said. "At that moment people stop seeing technology, and just see beauty."
While he's staying quiet about plans for future art projects, Brown said he looks forward to a future when 3-D printing is refined enough to print realistic versions of his computer flowers.
He imagines he'll be able to make ever more intricate and extraordinary flowers. "Although I was both an artist and programmer before my injury, I have switched to creating art purely with code," Brown said. "In that way I consider myself incredibly lucky. I think I had one of the only jobs in the world that could 'survive' such a life changing event as that."
To see more images, visit Daniel Brown's Flickr page.