V for Vertex

To create a simple fractal, take an equilateral triangle and divide it into four more equilateral triangles. Remove the middle triangle. Repeat the process with each new triangle and go on repeating it. You’ll end up with a shape like this, which is known as the Sierpiński triangle, after the Polish mathematician Wacław Sierpiński (1882-1969):

Sierpinski triangle

But you can also create the Sierpiński triangle one pixel at a time. Choose any point inside an equilateral triangle. Pick a corner of the triangle at random and move half-way towards it. Mark this spot. Then pick a corner at random again and move half-way towards the corner. And repeat. The result looks like this:


A simple program to create the fractal looks like this:

until false

function initial()
  v = 3 [v for vertex]
  r = 500
  lm = 0.5

function fractal()
  th = 2 * pi / v
[the following loop creates the corners of the triangle]
  for l = 1 to v
    x[l]=xcenter + sin(l*th) * r
    y[l]=ycenter + cos(l*th) * r
  next l
  fx = xcenter
  fy = ycenter
    rv = random(v)
    fx = fx + (x[rv]-fx) * lm
    fy = fy + (y[rv]-fy) * lm
  until keypressed

function altervariables()
[change v, lm, r etc]

In this case, more is less. When v = 4 and the shape is a square, there is no fractal and plot(fx,fy) covers the entire square.


When v = 5 and the shape is a pentagon, this fractal appears:


But v = 4 produces a fractal if a simple change is made in the program. This time, a corner cannot be chosen twice in a row:


function initial()
  v = 4
  r = 500
  lm = 0.5
  ci = 1 [i.e, number of iterations since corner previously chosen]

function fractal()
  th = 2 * pi / v
  for l = 1 to v
    x[l]=xcenter + sin(l*th) * r
    y[l]=ycenter + cos(l*th) * r
  next l
  fx = xcenter
  fy = ycenter
      rv = random(v)
    until chosen[rv]=0
    for l = 1 to v
      if chosen[l]>0 then chosen[l] = chosen[l]-1
    next l
    chosen[rv] = ci
    fx = fx + (x[rv]-fx) * lm
    fy = fy + (y[rv]-fy) * lm
  until keypressed

One can also disallow a corner if the corner next to it has been chosen previously, adjust the size of the movement towards the chosen corner, add a central point to the polygon, and so on. Here are more fractals created with such variations:








Ear Will An Thee

(This is a guest-review by Norman Foreman, B.A.)

Yr Wylan Ddu, Simon Whitechapel (Papyrocentric Press, ?)

If, like me, you froth at the mouth and roll on the floor biting the carpet when you hear the phrase “Pre-order now”, then relief is at hand. You might have thought that “pre-ordering now” was as logical as “ordering pre-now”. You were wrong. Here is a book that really can be pre-ordered now, because it doesn’t exist yet. If it ever does exist, it will cease to be pre-orderable now. In the meantime, you’re pre-ordering it whether you know it or not. In fact, the less you know, the more you’re pre-ordering it. All life-forms in the Universe, actual and otherwise, are pre-ordering it at this very moment, from the humblest virus to the mightiest hive-mind.

Front cover of yr wylan ddu by slow exploding gulls

Yr Wylan Ddu (2003) by Slow Exploding Gulls

There’s no escape, in other words. And no more review, you might think, given that the book doesn’t exist yet. True, but I can review the title. It’s Welsh, it means “The Black Gull”, and it’s pronounced something like “Ear Will An Thee”. It was also originally the title of an album in 2003 by the Exeter electronistas Slow Exploding Gulls. Whether S.E.G. will object to the appropriation remains to be seen. If they do, it can be pointed out that Dirgelwch Yr Wylan Ddu, or Secret of the Black Gull, was the title of a children’s book by Idwal Jones (1890-1964) published in 1978.

Front cover of Dirgelwch Yr Wylan Ddu by Idwal Jones

Idwal Jones’ Secret of the Black Gull (1978)

There is nothing corresponding to “of” in the original title of that book, but then Welsh grammar doesn’t work like that. Yr Wylan Ddu contains some good examples of how it does work. It’s an active, almost clockwork or organic, phrase compared to its static English equivalent. In isolation, the Welsh words for “the”, “black” and “gull” would be y, du, and gwylan, pronounced something like “ee”, “dee” and “goo-ill-an” in southern Welsh. But put them together and they mutate in more ways than one: Yr Wylan Ddu (adjectives generally follow the noun in Welsh). The similarity between gwylan and “gull” isn’t a coincidence: the English word is borrowed from Celtic.

However, it is unlikely that Yr Wylan Ddu will actually be written in Welsh or any other Celtic language. First, Whitechapel doubtless feels that this would reduce his already small audience. Second, he doesn’t speak Welsh. Or write it. So the book will probably follow past trends and be written in English. It’s also safe to predict that it will refer to at least one black gull. So: pre-order now. And please carry on doing so until further notice.

He Say, He Sigh, He Sow #9 and #10

“One of mighty union-smashing Maggie’s few big mistakes – along with increasing comprehensive education, letting third-world immigration and enforced multiculturalism rip, leaving the NHS and BBC ‘safe in our hands’, smashing the fisheries, selling out the Northern Irish Protestants, increasing welfarism, ending academic freedom and trying to push through the Poll Tax – was to be unfriendly to German reunification.” — Chris Brand, gFactor.

“Homosexual men are nature’s Petri dishes.” — Greg Cochran, West Hunter.

’Dith and the Maiden #2

Marguerite Kelsey 1928 by Meredith Frampton 1894-1984

Portrait of Marguerite Kelsey (1928) by Meredith Frampton (1894-1984).

Previously pre-posted (please peruse):

’Dith and the Maiden #1

They Say, They Sigh, They Sow

“The IAE [International Art English] of the French press release is almost too perfect: It is written, we can only imagine, by French interns imitating American interns imitating American academics imitating French academics.” — “International Art English”, Alix Rule and David Levine

Clock around the Rock

If you like minimalism, you should like binary. There is unsurpassable simplicity and elegance in the idea that any number can be reduced to a series of 1’s and 0’s. It’s unsurpassable because you can’t get any simpler: unless you use finger-counting, two symbols are the minimum possible. But with those two – a stark 1 and 0, true and false, yin and yang, sun and moon, black and white – you can conquer any number you please. 2 = 10[2]. 5 = 101. 100 = 1100100. 666 = 1010011010. 2013 = 11111011101. 9^9 = 387420489 = 10111000101111001000101001001. You can also perform any mathematics you please, from counting sheep to modelling the evolution of the universe.

Yin and Yang symbol

1 + 0 = ∞

But one disadvantage of binary, from the human point of view, is that numbers get long quickly: every doubling in size adds an extra digit. You can overcome that disadvantage using octal or hexadecimal, which compress blocks of binary into single digits, but those number systems need more symbols: eight and sixteen, as their names suggest. There’s an elegance there too, but binary goes masked, hiding its minimalist appeal beneath apparent complexity. It doesn’t need to wear a mask for computers, but human beings can appreciate bare binary too, even with our weak memories and easily tiring nervous systems. I especially like minimalist binary when it’s put to work on those most maximalist of numbers: the primes. You can compare integers, or whole numbers, to minerals. Some are like mica or shale, breaking readily into smaller parts, but primes are like granite or some other ultra-hard, resistant rock. In other words, some integers are easy to divide by other integers and some, like the primes, are not. Compare 256 with 257. 256 = 2^8, so it’s divisible by 128, 64, 32, 16, 8, 4, 2 and 1. 257 is a prime, so it’s divisible by nothing but itself and 1. Powers of two are easy to calculate and, in binary, very easy to represent:

2^0 = 1 = 1
2^1 = 2 = 10[2]
2^2 = 4 = 100
2^3 = 8 = 1000
2^4 = 16 = 10000
2^5 = 32 = 100000
2^6 = 64 = 1000000
2^7 = 128 = 10000000
2^8 = 256 = 100000000

Primes are the opposite: hard to calculate and usually hard to represent, whatever the base:

02 = 000010[2]
03 = 000011
05 = 000101
07 = 000111
11 = 001011
13 = 001101
17 = 010001
19 = 010011
23 = 010111
29 = 011101
31 = 011111
37 = 100101
41 = 101001
43 = 101011

Maximalist numbers, minimalist base: it’s a potent combination. But “brimes”, or binary primes, nearly all have one thing in common. Apart from 2, a special case, each brime must begin and end with 1. For the digits in-between, the God of Mathematics seems to be tossing a coin, putting 1 for heads, 0 for tails. But sometimes the coin will come up all heads or all tails: 127 = 1111111[2] and 257 = 100000001, for example. Brimes like that have a stark simplicity amid the jumble of 83 = 1010011[2], 113 = 1110001, 239 = 11101111, 251 = 11111011, 277 = 100010101, and so on. Brimes like 127 and 257 are also palindromes, or the same reading in both directions. But less simple brimes can be palindromes too:

73 = 1001001
107 = 1101011
313 = 100111001
443 = 110111011
1193 = 10010101001
1453 = 10110101101
1571 = 11000100011
1619 = 11001010011
1787 = 11011111011
1831 = 11100100111
1879 = 11101010111

But, whether they’re palindromes or not, all brimes except 2 begin and end with 1, so they can be represented as rings, like this:


Those twelve bits, or binary digits, actually represent the thirteen bits of 5227 = 1,010,001,101,011. Start at twelve o’clock (digit 1 of the prime) and count clockwise, adding 1’s and 0’s till you reach 12 o’clock again and add the final 1. Then you’ve clocked around the rock and created the granite of 5227, which can’t be divided by any integers but itself and 1. Another way to see the brime-ring is as an Ouroboros (pronounced “or-ROB-or-us”), a serpent or dragon biting its own tail, like this:

Alchemical Ouroboros

Alchemical Ouroboros (1478)

Dragon Ouroboros

Another alchemical Ouroboros (1599)

But you don’t have to start clocking around the rock at midday or midnight. Take the Ouroboprime of 5227 and start at eleven o’clock (digit 12 of the prime), adding 1’s and 0’s as you move clockwise. When you’ve clocked around the rock, you’ll have created the granite of 6709, another prime:


Other Ouroboprimes produce brimes both clockwise and anti-clockwise, like 47 = 101,111.


101,111 = 47
111,011 = 59
111,101 = 61


111,101 = 61
111,011 = 59
101,111 = 47

If you demand the clock-rocked brime produce distinct primes, you sometimes get more in one direction than the other. Here is 151 = 10,010,111:


10,010,111 = 151
11,100,101 = 229


11,101,001 = 233
11,010,011 = 211
10,100,111 = 167
10,011,101 = 157

The most productive brime I’ve discovered so far is 2,326,439 = 1,000,110,111,111,110,100,111[2], which produces fifteen distinct primes:

Clockwise (7 brimes)

1,000,110,111,111,110,100,111 = 2326439
1,100,011,011,111,111,010,011 = 3260371
1,110,100,111,000,110,111,111 = 3830207
1,111,101,001,110,001,101,111 = 4103279
1,111,110,100,111,000,110,111 = 4148791
1,111,111,010,011,100,011,011 = 4171547
1,101,111,111,101,001,110,001 = 3668593

Anti-Clockwise (8 brimes)

1,110,010,111,111,110,110,001 = 3768241
1,100,101,111,111,101,100,011 = 3342179
1,111,111,011,000,111,001,011 = 4174283
1,111,110,110,001,110,010,111 = 4154263
1,111,101,100,011,100,101,111 = 4114223
1,111,011,000,111,001,011,111 = 4034143
1,110,110,001,110,010,111,111 = 3873983
1,000,111,001,011,111,111,011 = 2332667

Appendix: Deciminimalist Primes

Some primes in base ten use only the two most basic symbols too. That is, primes like 11[10], 101[10], 10111[10] and 1011001[10] are composed of only 1’s and 0’s. Furthermore, when these numbers are read as binary instead, they are still prime: 11[2] = 3, 101[2] = 5, 10111[2] = 23 and 1011001[2] = 89. Here is an incomplete list of these deciminimalist primes:

11[10] = 1,011[2]; 11[2] = 3[10] is also prime.

101[10] = 1,100,101[2]; 101[2] = 5[10] is also prime.

10,111[10] = 10,011,101,111,111[2]; 10,111[2] = 23[10] is also prime.

101,111[10] = 11,000,101,011,110,111[2]; 101,111[2] = 47[10] is also prime.

1,011,001[10] = 11,110,110,110,100,111,001[2]; 1,011,001[2] = 89[10] is also prime.

1,100,101[10] = 100,001,100,100,101,000,101[2]; 1,100,101[2] = 101[10] is also prime.

10,010,101[10] = 100,110,001,011,110,111,110,101[2]; 10,010,101[2] = 149[10] is also prime.

10,011,101[10] = 100,110,001,100,000,111,011,101[2]; 10,011,101[2] = 157[10] is also prime.

10,100,011[10] = 100,110,100,001,110,100,101,011[2]; 10,100,011[2] = 163[10] is also prime.

10,101,101[10] = 100,110,100,010,000,101,101,101[2]; 10,101,101[2] = 173[10] is also prime.

10,110,011[10] = 100,110,100,100,010,000,111,011[2]; 10,110,011[2] = 179[10] is also prime.

10,111,001[10] = 100,110,100,100,100,000,011,001[2].

11,000,111[10] = 101,001,111,101,100,100,101,111[2]; 11,000,111[2] = 199[10] is also prime.

11,100,101[10] = 101,010,010,101,111,111,000,101[2]; 11,100,101[2] = 229[10] is also prime.

11,110,111[10] = 101,010,011,000,011,011,011,111[2].

11,111,101[10] = 101,010,011,000,101,010,111,101[2].

100,011,001[10] = 101,111,101,100,000,101,111,111,001[2]; 100,011,001[2] = 281[10] is also prime.

100,100,111[10] = 101,111,101,110,110,100,000,001,111[2].

100,111,001[10] = 101,111,101,111,001,001,010,011,001[2]; 100,111,001[2] = 313[10] is also prime.

101,001,001[10] = 110,000,001,010,010,011,100,101,001[2].

101,001,011[10] = 110,000,001,010,010,011,100,110,011[2]; 101,001,011[2] = 331[10] is also prime.

101,001,101[10] = 110,000,001,010,010,011,110,001,101[2].

101,100,011[10] = 110,000,001,101,010,100,111,101,011[2].

101,101,001[10] = 110,000,001,101,010,110,111,001,001[2].

101,101,111[10] = 110,000,001,101,010,111,000,110,111[2]; 101,101,111[2] = 367[10] is also prime.

101,110,111[10] = 110,000,001,101,101,000,101,011,111[2].

101,111,011[10] = 110,000,001,101,101,010,011,100,011[2]; 101,111,011[2] = 379[10] is also prime.

101,111,111[10] = 110,000,001,101,101,010,101,000,111[2]; 101,111,111[2] = 383[10] is also prime.

110,010,101[10] = 110,100,011,101,001,111,011,110,101[2].

110,100,101[10] = 110,100,011,111,111,111,010,000,101[2]; 110,100,101[2] = 421[10] is also prime.

110,101,001[10] = 110,100,100,000,000,001,000,001,001[2].

110,110,001[10] = 110,100,100,000,010,010,100,110,001[2]; 110,110,001[2] = 433[10] is also prime.

110,111,011[10] = 110,100,100,000,010,100,100,100,011[2]; 110,111,011[2] = 443[10] is also prime.

Flesh and Binary

It’s odd that probability theory is so counter-intuitive to human beings and so late-flowering in mathematics. Men have been gambling for thousands of years, but didn’t develop a good understanding of what happens when dice are rolled or coins are tossed until a few centuries ago. And an intuitive grasp of probability would have been useful long before gambling was invented. Our genes automatically equip us to speak, to walk and to throw, but they don’t equip us to understand by instinct why five-tails-in-a-row makes heads no more likely on the sixth coin-toss than it was on the first.

Dice from ancient Rome

Dice and gambling tokens from ancient Rome

Or to understand why five-boys-in-a-row makes the birth of a girl next time no more likely than it was during the first pregnancy (at least in theory). Boy/girl, like heads/tails, is a binary choice, so binary numbers are useful for understanding the probabilities of birth or coin-tossing. Questions like these are often asked to test knowledge of elementary probability:

1. Suppose a family have two children and the elder is a boy. What is the probability that both are boys?

2. Suppose a family have two children and at least one is a boy. What is the probability that both are boys?

People sometimes assume that the two questions are equivalent, but binary makes it clear that they’re not. If 1 represents a boy, 0 represents a girl and digit-order represents birth-order, the first question covers these possibilities: 10, 11. So the chance of both children being boys is 1/2 or 50%. The second question covers these possibilities: 10, 01, 11. So the chance of both children being boys is 1/3 = 33·3%. But now examine this question:

3. Suppose a family have two children and only one is called John. What is the probability that both children are boys?

That might seem the equivalent of question 2, but it isn’t. The name “John” doesn’t just identify the child as a boy, it identifies him as a unique boy, distinct from any brother he happens to have. Binary isn’t sufficient any more. So, while boy = 1, John = 2. The possibilities are: 20, 21, 02, 12. The chance of both children being boys is then 1/2 = 50%.

The three questions above are very simple, but I don’t think Archimedes or Euclid ever addressed the mathematics behind them. Perhaps they would have made mistakes if they had. I hope I haven’t, more than two millennia later. Perhaps the difficulty of understanding probability relates to the fact that it involves movement and change. The Greeks developed a highly sophisticated mathematics of static geometry, but did not understand projectiles or falling objects. When mathematicians began understood those in Renaissance Italy, they also began to understand the behaviour of dice, coins and cards. Ideas were on the move then and this new mathematics was obviously related to the rise of science: Galileo (1564-1642) is an important figure in both fields. But the maths and science can be linked with apparently distinct phenomena like Protestantism and classical music. All of these things began to develop in a “band of genius” identified by the American researcher Charles Murray. It runs roughly from Italy through France and Germany to Scotland: from Galileo through Beethoven and Descartes to David Hume.

Map of Europe from Mercator's Atlas Cosmographicae (1596)

Map of Europe from Mercator’s Atlas Cosmographicae (1596)

But how far is geography also biology? Having children is a form of gambling: the dice of DNA, shaken in testicle- and ovary-cups, are rolled in a casino run by Mother Nature. Or rather, in a series of casinos where different rules apply: the genetic bets placed in Africa or Europe or Asia haven’t paid off in the same way. In other words, what wins in one place may lose in another. Different environments have favoured different sets of genes with different effects on both bodies and brains. All human beings have many things in common, but saying that we all belong to the same race, the human race, is like saying that we all speak the same language, the human language. It’s a ludicrous and anti-scientific idea, however widely it may be accepted (and enforced) in the modern West.

Languages have fuzzy boundaries. So do races. Languages have dialects and accents, and so, in a sense, do races. The genius that unites Galileo, Beethoven and Hume may have been a particular genetic dialect spoken, as it were, in a particular area of Europe. Or perhaps it’s better to see European genius as a series of overlapping dialects. Testing that idea will involve mathematics and probability theory, and the computers that crunch the data about flesh will run on binary. Apparently disparate things are united by mathematics, but maths unites everything partly because it is everything. Understanding the behaviour of dice in the sixteenth century leads to understanding the behaviour of DNA in the twenty-first.

The next step will be to control the DNA-dice as they roll. China has already begun trying to do that using science first developed in the West. But the West itself is still in the thrall of crypto-religious ideas about equality and environment. These differences have biological causes: the way different races think about genetics, or persuade other races to think about genetics, is related to their genetics. You can’t escape genes any more than you can escape maths. But the latter is a ladder that allows us to see over the old genetic wall and glimpse the possibilities beyond it. The Chinese are trying to climb over the wall using super-computers; the West is still insisting that there’s nothing on the other side. Interesting times are ahead for both flesh and binary.


1. Suppose a family have three children and the eldest is a girl. What is the probability that all three are girls?

2. Suppose a family have three children and at least one is a girl. What is the probability that all three are girls?

3. Suppose a family have three children and only one is called Joan. What is the probability that all three are girls?

The possibilities in the first case are: 000, 001, 010, 011. So the chance of three girls is 1/4 = 25%.

The possibilities in the second case are: 000, 001, 010, 011, 100, 101, 110. So the chance of three girls is 1/7 = 14·28%.

The possibilities in the third case are: 200, 201, 210, 211, 020, 021, 120, 121, 002, 012, 102, 112. So the chance of three girls is 3/12 = 1/4 = 25%.

Performativizing Papyrocentricity #9

Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:

Booty and the BeastsFor Your Eyes Only, Ian Fleming (1960)

Flowering on FumesCollecting Cigarette & Trade Cards, Gordon Howsden (New Cavendish Books, 1995)

Passion for PartsDear Popsy: Collected Postcards of a Private Schoolboy to His Father, E. Bishop-Potter, illustrated by Paul Cox (Penguin, 1985)

Yes, We Can ShitWhy Your Five-Year-Old Could Not Have Done That: Modern Art Explained, Susie Hodge (Thames and Hudson, 2012)

Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR