Thursday, May 14, 2015

Leaves and Planets

I went to a middle school band concert tonight. Quality was variable.

In the background, though, was a giant tree. The wind was strong, and the leaves were so thick on the tree that it made the tree ripple like it was wearing a huge green coat.

I watched that tree for quite a while, and then I remembered that developers have mathematical equations to describe the movement of trees. Which blew my mind, that something so staggeringly complex could be simulated so realistically.

Then I started wondering how they'd develop the equations.

This is probably wrong, but here's my best guess: after "building" a tree, you start with the part of the tree that has the largest cumulative surface area, which would be the leaves. So you do a check to see if the wind is strong enough to make an individual leaf move, then you sum the forces of the leaves on an individual branch to see if the movement of the leaves is strong enough to make the branch move. If the branch does move, you do a movement check on the branch it attaches to, then keep summing cumulative forces and check branch movement until you get to the trunk.

Or something.

One of the bands (not Eli's) played an excerpt from The Planets, which is one of my very favorite pieces of classical music. Unlike most people, the first version I ever heard of this piece was played not by an orchestra, but by Tomita, who created an arrangement for this huge wall of synthesizers he played.

I've listened to conventional versions of The Planets since then--many times--and while they sound beautiful, I still prefer Tomita's version. There's a special kind of intensity, but it's also whimsical in places.

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