Gnarly Videos

(Rudy Rucker is a guestblogger. His latest novel, Hylozoic, describes a postsingular world in which everything is alive.)

All on their own, ordinary processes can make incredibly convoluted shapes. Consider, for instance the field lines of some magnets moving around each other, as shown in this video by Daniel Piker, who has a great blog of computational gnarl called Space Symmetry Structure.

William Rood has created a somewhat inscrutable---but mind-boggling---gnarl investigating page, just click on the screen-captured image below. It's like flying an alien spaceship, with control buttons that you don't understand. No matter, keep on clicking and gaze your fill.


Owen Maresh, another young investigator, is posting some exceedingly gnarly videos on his YouTube site. Here's one that starts out calm---like an egg---but then goes ape via some folds through the subdimensions.

And finally, how about an explanation from the old Professor himself. Here's my dada video: "What is Gnarl?" (with a narration that's partly in imaginary Norwegian).

You just don't get this kind of information anywhere except on BoingBoing!


  1. “Although most maps show Lancre to measure roughly 40 miles by 10 miles in size, its true area remains unknown — partly because of its mountainous terrain and the fact that it borders on the Ramtops, but also due to the warping effect of high level of background magic. Owing to this background magic, geography in certain areas of Lancre can take on additional properties that exist either outside, or in addition to, the conventional geographic dimensions.

    Such areas include the Lancre Moors, where reality can become folded into deep troughs and ridges known as Gnarly ground. This can create the illusion that two points in space are adjacent, when in reality they are several miles apart, or vice versa. The effect, as mentioned in The Discworld Companion is that Lancre contains more landscape than a kingdom of its apparent size should be able to contain. (A similar magical effect occurs in the Unseen University Library, which has a diameter of 100 yards, but an infinite radius.)

    “Gnarly Ground” can be detected by those with magical senses, or those with keen eyesight who observe how clouds and shadows appear to fracture as they pass across it. Flying over such areas is not for the faint-hearted and walking across it can be fraught with peril for the unwary.

    Similarly, Lancre contains areas where the landscape echoes the state of mind of those who pass through it, leading confident travellers to find babbling brooks while, in the same place at the same time, disheartened travellers find deep valleys and raging mountain torrents.

    Though it is not clear if the phenomenon is related to background magic, Lancre also serves as the physical location for (possibly two) independent gateways to a “parasite universe” inhabited by Elves.”

  2. From what I’ve been told, Dhumavati, The ancient Wisdom Goddess of the Tantras, is Gnarly. She is ferocious, elderly, and unattractive, creates confusion and strife, and ultimately represents the fear of old age and death that veils true immortality.

    I’m not exactly sure what that has to do with tree branches or science, but I do know that if your girl ever asks you if you think she’s gnarly, its best to say no.

  3. Gerard Manley Hopkins used the word ‘inscape’ for the patterns in nature when you looked at them closely – things like smoke and convections, the caustics you get when you close your eyes, and so forth. He also used ‘inscape’ as a verb – you would ‘inscape’ old wood, or running water. Our Gerard was a Jesuit priest, and a lecturer in Latin, and a bit of a gloom-bucket: not exactly the sort of guy you might meet at Big Sur and try a blast from his bong. But he was basically on the right track, and did write some good stuff.

    I always thought ‘Gerard Manley Hopkins’ would be a good name for a pet rabbit. A big, floppy one…

  4. Is it significant that the third related video on YouTube for “quaternion julia set transformation” is of Sailor Moon?

    Is Sailor Moon gnarly?

  5. Thanks for this!
    Some might call this gnarly as well: live footage of paint organizing in cellular flows, from painter perry hall. There are tons of still images of other natural geometric formations and flows, including sound waves moving through paint taken from his videos:

  6. Ah, that William Rood thingy is exquisitely weird. Got to go and spend some more time there.

  7. Was a cool video, gnarly indeed and only from boingboing. The images were amazing and the video was just awesome as well.


  8. I used to have gnarly mindstate when I was young just before I went to sleep. My mind was filled with overly gnarly unsettled and complicated imagery that was ever changing and unable to stop of pinpoint. Like a complex rubbish heap filling all minds eye.

    Anyone else ever get this?

  9. Hey makers, if you want to make some of the stuff you just saw in the videos you can use this free app for Mac (coming soon for Windows):
    For real-time 3D renderings of 4D quaternion Julia set fractals

    I’ve enjoyed this app for years and you can jump right into it and start creating fantastic stuff even if you don’t know anything about the science behind it, graphics, etc. It’s really easy.

    CowTip: If you don’t know what you are doing, just start moving the sliders around and you’ll see instant results. You can even put your mouse over it right away, click and hold and start rotating it around, etc. to check out your handiwork.

    This will work with older computers as well in real-time.


  10. I forgot to also give a shout out to KPT Frax4D which I used to play with a lot back in the day which also allowed for real-time texture mapping, etc. on your gnarly 3D renderings of 4D mayhem.

  11. @20 anon:

    As a kid I remember it seeming like the room was jumping back and forth between two angles.

    And, I used to have this game–also right before I went to sleep–where I rubbed my eyes so that things got all grainy, with colored spots. One of the scariest things I can remember as a kid was that, after rubbing my eyes, all those grains coalesced into some kind of a (friendly) monster, which talked to me.

    I’ve always supposed that both experiences have some kind of developmental physiology reason behind them. Any other BBers have similar experiences?

    I think of that monster every time I see those feedback fractals, the way shapes come in and out of the static.

  12. “I used to have gnarly mindstate when I was young just before I went to sleep. My mind was filled with overly gnarly unsettled and complicated imagery that was ever changing and unable to stop of pinpoint. Like a complex rubbish heap filling all minds eye.

    Anyone else ever get this?”

    I used to have these weird images (also right before falling asleep) of huge objects, with strange properties (like they felt like they had the wrong amount of mass, or too much mass, etc) – seems similar. I guess it’s just a part of your brain going to sleep while you are still somewhat awake…

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