Google Fractalmaps

I’ve been a fan of Google for quite a while now. What with their superb Chrome browser, Gmail service, extensive API’s and most importantly their motto, “Don’t be evil”; what’s not to like! Only time will tell on the last point so fingers crossed. While browsing the Google Research Blog I spotted a very interesting article: Julia Meets HTML5.

julia map random colours
The Julia Map with a random colour scheme (nice feature).

Julia of course refers to Julia fractals rather than a person called Julia. Named after Gaston Julia, a French mathematician who studied them in the 1920′s. His works were largely forgotten until Benoît Mandelbrot mentioned them in his now famous works on fractals.

Google Labs have created an extremely slick way of navigating around various types of fractals. From the plain old boring(!), Mandelbrot and it’s many variations to the Julia and Newton fractal. Select a fractal and colour scheme then zoom and drag just like a standard Google Map.

According to the article the demo uses the Google Maps API; I guess it may use it loosely in it’s user interface but there are an infinite number of zoom levels with fractals. When you zoom into a coastline on a Google Maps you will eventually reach a limit where you will be presented with a fuzzy image (or a blank tile); this will never happen on the Julia Map. The ’tile’ information isn’t downloaded from a server like Google Maps, it’s calculated on the fly by the browsers JavaScript engine. The faster the JavaScript Engine the better. If you have a browser that supports the new Web Workers API you will notice a huge difference in performance, as the CPU intensive fractal calculation will be offloaded to separate worker threads rather than the single main UI thread.

I could spend hours investigating the infinite mathematical landscape of the Julia Map, why not try it out for yourself and post your results on Twitter under hashtag #juliamap.