Corralling Chaos

All the best people brood incessantly on the fact that a point inside a square jumping half-way towards a randomly chosen vertex will not create a fractal. Inside a triangle, yes: a fractal appears. Inside a pentagon too. But not inside a square:

Point jumping half-way towards a randomly chosen vertex


Instead, the interior of the square fills with random points: it chokes with chaos, you might say. However, fractals appear inside a square if the point is restricted in some way: banned from jumping towards a vertex twice in a row; banned from jumping towards the second-nearest vertex; and so on. Those restrictions are what might be called soft, because they take place in software (or in the brain of someone following the rule as a game or piece of performance art). Here’s what might be called a hard restriction that creates a fractal: the point cannot jump towards a randomly vertex if its jump passes over any part of the red upright cross:

Point cannot pass over red lines


I call this a barrier fractal. It’s obvious that the point cannot jump from one corner of the square towards the opposite corner, which creates bare space stretching from each vertex towards the tips of the upright cross. Less obvious is the way in which this bare space “cascades” into other parts of the square, creating a repeatedly branching and shrinking pattern.



When the barrier is a circle, a similar fractal appears:


If the point can also jump towards the center of the circle, this is what happens:

“Down through the aether I saw the accursed earth turning, ever turning, with angry and tempestuous seas gnawing at wild desolate shores and dashing foam against the tottering towers of deserted cities.” — “The Crawling Chaos” (1921), Winifred Jackson and H. P. Lovecraft.


Now here’s an upright cross with a gap in the middle:


Here’s an upright cross when the point can also jump towards the center of the cross:


A slanted cross with a central attractor:


And a single horizontal stroke:


A slanted stroke — note pentagons:


Even if the barrier is small and set on an edge of the square, it affects the rest of the square:


A more attractive example of edge-affects-whole:


Circles away from the edges


Detail of previous image






Here the point can also jump towards the center of the square’s edges:


A more subtle barrier fractal uses the previous jumps of the point to restrict its next jump. For example, if the point cannot jump across the line created by its previous-but-one jump, it moves like this:

Jump can’t cross track of last-but-one jump (animated gif)


The fractal itself looks like this:


Rule: on jump #3, cannot jump across the line created by jump #1; on jump #4, cannot cross the line created by jump #2; and so on.



And this is the fractal if the point cannot jump across the line created by its previous-but-two jump:

Rule: on jump #4, cannot jump across the line created by jump #2; on jump #5, cannot cross the line created by jump #3; and so on