This Dancing Fractal Tree Is Awesome

(OK: Bear with me, guys. This is a little complicated to explain, but the payoff is SO COOL.)

Have you ever heard of fractals? They're super-intricate structures whose parts are little baby copies of their wholes—so they look the same, no matter how much you zoom in on them. Kind of mind-boggling idea, right? Infinite sameness, no matter how close up you get?

Recently, Aatish Bhatia, a science writer at Wired and engineering educator at Princeton, had a realization: Trees are fractal-like, because each tree branch is essentially a little copy of the larger tree.

For example, this looks like a whole tree—but it's actually just a single branch. (photo Aatish Bhatia/Wired)

If that doesn't make sense to you, Bhatia gets deeper into the science of it here. But if you're too impatient for all that, here's what you really need to know: Bhatia decided he wanted to make an animated, "dancing" fractal tree using computer code.

And the result is mesmerizing:

If you're looking for a great way to procrastinate, go lose a few hours playing around with the interactive version of his tree.

But Bhatia's experiment actually gets even cooler—and dancier. He decided he wanted to control the movements of his tree with a human body rather than a mouse. To do that, he used a Kinect sensor bar, which allows a dancer to animate the tree as she waves her arms around. Or, as Bhatia more scientifically puts it, "The physical space that her body inhabits is mapped onto an abstract mathematical space"—i.e., the fractal tree code.

How neat is that?

Because every dance is better with a soundtrack, Bhatia set the finished product to music. Take a look!

Latest Posts

Kennedy George and Ava Holloway pose in front of Richmond, Virginia's Robert E. Lee statue (Chris George, courtesy Kennedy George and Ava Holloway)

9 Dancers Using Their Art to Advocate for Change

Dance and activism can go hand in hand in a number of ways. Over the past few months, many dancers have turned to their art not only to advocate in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, but to highlight injustice within the dance world itself. Whether it's incorporating dance into protests, starting conversations with other members of the dance community, or expressing themselves through personal creative projects, dancers are finding ways to speak out.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Nick Silverio (Kevin Wang, courtesy Silverio)

Meet the Dance Competition Judge Behind the Most #Relatable Dancer TikToks

If you're on #compkid TikTok, odds are you've seen a post by Nick Silverio (@nicksilverioo). Silverio was a competitive dancer with Elite Academy of Dance in Shrewsbury, MA, before studying business at the University of Pennsylvania and continuing to dance throughout college. Now he works as a professional dancer, choreographer, and competition judge in NYC, and—like so many of us—turned to TikTok to fight quarantine boredom. His account has grown to almost 40k followers and has garnered over a million likes.

We asked Silverio to tell us a bit about his new creative outlet.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Here's a round of applause for all the former comp kids who made it big. (Courtesy Fusion Dance Competiton)

Getting a Leg Up: How Growing Up as a Comp Kid Prepares You to Go Pro

Commercial dancer Kaitlynn Edgar was in Travis Wall's class at NUVO when she realized that competitions and conventions could lead to big things. Like joining-Shaping-Sound big. "After class, Travis started asking me all these questions, like when I was graduating," she recalls. "Everything fell into place, just because I happened to be a senior that year—and because I went to that convention. Soon after, I ended up joining the company."

There are all kinds of natural bridges between the competition world and the professional-dance world. We spoke to the experts about how life on the comp circuit can benefit your future career.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search