A Ray Tracer to Visualize Higher Dimensional Julia Sets

Authors: Sandin, D., Kauffman, L.

Publication: Proc. of the Fifth Interdisciplinary Conference of The International Society of The Arts, Mathematics, and Architecture (ISAMA / CTI 2004), Chicago, IL

Artists, scientists and mathematicians have been collaborating on a variety of projects at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory for over thirty years. In 1989, a ray tracer was created to visualize higher dimensional Julia Sets, involving and contributing to advances in all three fields.


The creation of the ray tracer to visualize higher dimensional Julia Sets described here took place in a research environment called the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL). EVL is a shared facility of the School of Art and Design and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In operation for over 30 years, EVL has two directors, 12 associated faculty and staff, and 50 graduate students. About one-third of the students are pursuing a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in the School of Art and Design and two-thirds are pursuing either a Master of Science or a Ph.D. in computer science. To our knowledge, this is the longest living program that offers an MFA which is a formal collaboration of art and computer science. EVL delivers art intelligence to science, and science and technology to artists. It systematically teaches the artists the technology and less systematically teaches the art to the computer science students. The artists’ experience is central to the success of EVL. EVL creates and expands new media and supplies art and science content for those media.

The economic support of the EVL is based on working with scientists and mathematicians to deliver new visualization techniques and technologies to support scientific and mathematical investigation. The research outlined in this paper would not have been possible without EVL and the expertise of both the computer scientists and artists.

There has been considerable interest in the visualization of fractals. Their infinite detail combined with repeating forms have intrigued mathematicians and artists and broadly appeal to the general public. The most popular images have been of two-dimensional Mandelbrot and Julia Sets.

Date: June 15, 2004 - June 19, 2004

Document: View PDF
D. Sandin, EVL

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