# 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 crawls 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

# Appointment with Distality

distal, adj. Anat. Situated away from the centre of the body, or from the point of origin (said of the extremity or distant part of a limb or organ); terminal. Opp. to proximal. [← stem of dist- (in distant adj.) + -al, after dorsal, ventral, etc.] — Oxford English Dictionary

When a point jumps inside a triangle, moving halfway towards a randomly chosen vertex each time, a fractal known as the Sierpiński triangle appears:

Point jumping halfway towards random vertex of a triangle

Point jumping inside triangle (black-and-white version)

But when a point moves at random in the same way inside a square, no fractal appears. Instead, the interior of the square gradually fills with a haze of pixels:

Point jumping halfway towards random vertex of a square

Now trying imposing restrictions on the point jumping inside a square. If it can’t jump towards a vertex twice in a row, this fractal appears:

Ban consecutive jumps towards same vertex

Ban consecutive jumps towards same vertex (black-and-white version)

Suppose the vertices are numbered from 1 to 4 and the point can’t jump towards the vertex one lower than the previously chosen vertex. That is, if it jumps towards vertex 3, it can’t jump next towards vertex 2, but it can jump towards vertices 1, 3, or 4 (if the vertex is 1, it’s banned from moving towards vertex 4, i.e. 1-1 = 0 = 4). Now this fractal appears:

This is the fractal when the point can’t jump towards the vertex two places lower than the one it has just jumped towards:

But if you can ban, you can also un-ban. Suppose the point jumps towards vertex v at time t and is then banned from jumping towards vertex v-2 at time t+1 unless it had jumped towards vertex v-1 at time t-1. This interesting fractal appears:

Ban jump v-2 at t+1 unless jump v-1 at t-1

Here are some more fractals using the ban / un-ban technique:

Ban / un-ban various

Ban jump v+0 at t+1 unless jump v+1 at t-1

Ban jump v+1 at t+1 unless jump v+3 at t-1

Ban jump v+0 at t+1 unless jump v+2 at t-1

Ban jump v+2 at t+1 unless jump v+2 at t-1

Ban / un-ban various

You can also impose or lift bans based not on the vertex the point jumps towards, but on the distance the point jumps. For example, take the radius r of the circle circumscribing the square and divide it into four segments, 0 to ¼r, ¼r to ½r, ½r to ¾r, and ¾r to r. When the point is going to jump towards vertex v, test whether its jump will land in the same segment, measured from the center of the circle, as it currently occupies. If it does, ban the jump and choose another vertex. Or unban the vertex if the point occupied segment s + x at time t-1. Here are some of the fractals produced using this technique:

Ban / un-ban based on distance jumped

Ban jump into segment s+0 of 4

Ban jump into segment s+1 from center

Ban jump into segment s+2

Ban jump into s+2 at t+1 unless jump into s+2 at at t-1

Ban jump into s+0 from present point

Ban jump into s+2 from present point

Ban jump into s+3 from present point

Ban jump into s+0 at t+1 unless jump into s+1 at at t-1

It’s easy to think of variants on all these themes, but I’ll leave them as an exercise for the interested reader.