Back to Drac’

draconic, adj. /drəˈkɒnɪk/ pertaining to, or of the nature of, a dragon. [Latin draco, -ōnem, < Greek δράκων dragon] — The Oxford English Dictionary

In Curvous Energy, I looked at the strange, beautiful and complex fractal known as the dragon curve and showed how it can be created from a staid and sedentary square:

A dragon curve


Here are the stages whereby the dragon curve is created from a square. Note how each square at one stage generates a pair of further squares at the next stage:

Dragon curve from squares #1


Dragon curve from squares #2


Dragon curve from squares #3


Dragon curve from squares #4


Dragon curve from squares #5


Dragon curve from squares #6


Dragon curve from squares #7


Dragon curve from squares #8


Dragon curve from squares #9


Dragon curve from squares #10


Dragon curve from squares #11


Dragon curve from squares #12


Dragon curve from squares #13


Dragon curve from squares #14


Dragon curve from squares (animated)


The construction is very easy and there’s no tricky trigonometry, because you can use the vertices and sides of each old square to generate the vertices of the two new squares. But what happens if you use lines rather than squares to generate the dragon curve? You’ll discover that less is more:

Dragon curve from lines #1


Dragon curve from lines #2


Dragon curve from lines #3


Dragon curve from lines #4


Dragon curve from lines #5


Each line at one stage generates a pair of further lines at the next stage, but there’s no simple way to use the original line to generate the new ones. You have to use trigonometry and set the new lines at 45° to the old one. You also have to shrink the new lines by a fixed amount, 1/√2 = 0·70710678118654752… Here are further stages:

Dragon curve from lines #6


Dragon curve from lines #7


Dragon curve from lines #8


Dragon curve from lines #9


Dragon curve from lines #10


Dragon curve from lines #11


Dragon curve from lines #12


Dragon curve from lines #13


Dragon curve from lines #14


Dragon curve from lines (animated)


But once you have a program that can adjust the new lines, you can experiment with new angles. Here’s a dragon curve in which one new line is at an angle of 10°, while the other remains at 45° (after which the full shape is rotated by 180° because it looks better that way):

Dragon curve 10° and 45°


Dragon curve 10° and 45° (animated)


Dragon curve 10° and 45° (coloured)


Here are more examples of dragon curves generated with one line at 45° and the other line at a different angle:

Dragon curve 65°


Dragon curve 65° (anim)


Dragon curve 65° (col)


Dragon curve 80°


Dragon curve 80° (anim)


Dragon curve 80° (col)


Dragon curve 135°


Dragon curve 135° (anim)


Dragon curve 250°


Dragon curve 250° (anim)


Dragon curve 250° (col)


Dragon curve 260°


Dragon curve 260° (anim)


Dragon curve 260° (col)


Dragon curve 340°


Dragon curve 340° (anim)


Dragon curve 340° (col)


Dragon curve 240° and 20°


Dragon curve 240° and 20° (anim)


Dragon curve 240° and 20° (col)


Dragon curve various angles (anim)


Previously pre-posted:

Curvous Energy — a first look at dragon curves

Curvous Energy

Here is a strange and beautiful fractal known as a dragon curve:

A dragon curve (note: this is a twin-dragon curve or Davis-Knuth dragon)


And here is the shape generally regarded as the dullest and most everyday of all:

A square


But squares are square, so let’s go back to dragon-curves. This particular kind of dragon-curve looks a lot like a Chinese dragon. You can see the same writhing energy and scaliness:

Chinese dragon


Dragon-curve for comparison


Dragon-curves also look like some species of soft coral:

Red soft-coral


In short, dragon-curves are organic and lively, quite unlike the rigid, lifeless solidity of a square. But there’s more to a dragon-curve than immediately meets the eye. Dragon-curves are rep-tiles, that is, you can tile one with smaller copies of itself:

Dragon-curve rep-tiled with two copies of itself


Dragon-curve rep-4


Dragon-curve rep-8


Dragon-curve rep-16


Dragon-curve rep-32


Dragon-curve self-tiling (animated)


From the rep-32 dragon-curve, you can see that a dragon-curve can be surrounded by six copies of itself. Here’s an animation of the process:

Dragon-curve surrounded (anim)


And because dragon-curves are rep-tiles, they will tile the plane:

Dragon-curve tiling #1


Dragon-curve tiling #2


But how do you make these strange and beautiful shapes, with their myriad curves and curlicules, their energy and liveliness? It’s actually very simple. You start with the shape generally regarded as the dullest and most everyday of all:

A square


Then you see how the shape can be replaced by five smaller copies of itself:

Square overlaid by five smaller squares


Square replaced by five smaller squares


Then you set about replacing it with two of those smaller copies:

Replacing squares Stage #0


Replacing squares Stage #1


Then you do it again to each of the copies:

Replacing squares Stage #2


And again:

Replacing squares #3


And again:

Replacing squares #4


And keep on doing it:

Replacing squares #5


Replacing squares #6


Replacing squares #7


Replacing squares #8


Replacing squares #9


Replacing squares #10


Replacing squares #11


Replacing squares #12


Replacing squares #13


Replacing squares #14


Replacing squares #15


And in the end you’ve got a dragon-curve:

Dragon-curve built from squares


Dragon-curve built from squares (animated)