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Synchronous-Orbit Algorithm    

Robert P. Munafo, 2023 Jun 20.

The synchronous-orbit method (also called "Simultaneous Orbit Iteration") was the first perturbation method to be published, in an article for Amygdala by Steven Stoft, one of the authors of Fractal Witchcraft which was the first implementation.

It optimizes the computation of Escape-Iterations for a large set of points, utilizing approximation and interpolation techniques to model the behavior of an iterated function when neighboring points are iterated. The method works well for the Mandelbrot iteration, fn(Z) = fn-1(Z)2 + C.

Synchronous-orbit algorithms are a patch iteration method, which is a type of perturbation method, all of which are orbit-based optimizations, all of which are Speed Improvements. See those headings for more information and references to other optimizations.

The algorithm works on the principle that points which are close together will have similar "tracks" (iterates) as the Mandelbrot iteration is applied to them. The algorithm suffers from distortion which occurs when those iterates fall near the Origin.

Consider a set of points in Parameter Space (the space in which iteration occurs) corresponding to the pixels in a rectangular image. The z1=c values for those points will all lie in neat rows and columns on the complex plane:

* . . . . . . . * . . . . . . . . . . . . . . * . . . . . . . *   

The points are all different complex magnitude (distance from the origin) and have different angles with respect to the origin. Because of their differences in magnitude, the calculation of z2 = z12 + c will give z2 values that also differ in magnitude, but by a greater amount. The rectangle also will have rotated, and straight edges will become slightly curved. The "grid" of z2 values might now look like this:

. . . ' * . . ' . . ' . * . . . . . . . . . . . * . . . ' ' * '

After more iterations the distortion will increase, and eventually if there is a mu-atom or island in the image, the origin will be within the grid:

| | . . . * * ' ' '|' . . | . . | * ------.---0----------.----- . | . . | . .| . . . |* |

At any step up to this point the four corners (marked by *) can be used as reference points and two-dimensional interpolation can be used to locate any desired pixel's zn value. However, on the next iteration the grid will curve around on itself (and in many cases there will be pairs of points with different zn values that have the same zn+1). At that point the "grid" would need to be subdivided into pieces, which can each then be iterated further in a similar way.

Early Descriptions

I posted about the Synchronous Orbit method to sci.fractals on Dec 24, 1992, as a response to Tim Wegner (a co-author of FRACTINT). I describe my own implementation efforts (in Color MANDELZOOM) and my discoveries of the effect of islands on the method's effectiveness:

This is a response to Tim Wegner's description of his efforts to duplicate the Fractal Witchcraft "Synchronous Orbit Iteration" algorithm (which I will call SOI for brevity).    It's long, so here's the summary: well-implemented SOI uses curve-fitting and curve-based interpolation. mu-molecules (a.k.a. islands or minibros) cause the distortion; skip to the bottom if you want to know why.    For those of you that don't get _Amygdala_ (and why don't you?? :-) here are some details from Steven Stoft's article that I feel I should mention. Stoft (who is one of _Witchcraft_'s creators) describes "the four corners of a square that more than covers the entire [desired] image" and instructs the reader to iterate the corners until "they begin to deviate slightly from a perfect square". Stoft suggests that an error amounting to 1/10 of the distance between adjecent pixels is a reasonable limit, beyond which one should break the square up into "16 smaller squares". The coordinates of Steven's sample image are center_real = -0.1049775673880424, center_imag = 0.9270413637809322, size = 0.000000000012 = 1.2e-11, max_iterations = 10000.    I read this back in mid-September and immediately set out implementing the algorithm. As per Stoft's description I measured the edge lengths of the iterated corners and went until the ratio of longest-edge to shortest-edge got bigger than (1 + (1/16 * 1/pixel_width)) where pixel_width is the width in pixels of my image. (I decided to cut off at 1/16 pixel rather than 1/10.) This turns out to be just a first approximation and I shall call it the "Rhombus Method" because you are essentially tracking a rectangular array of iterated points and watching to see when it stops being a rhombus.    As you found, Tim, this method is woefully inadaquate. The rhombus is a very poor model of the iterated point set. Iterating the sample image, I got 270 iterations before having to split the first time, a total of 343 iterations before the second split, and 613 before the third. (This is just a 160x160 pixel image; expect much fewer iterations for 640x480). By comparison, the average number of iterations for the pixels in the final image is 5453.8.    The next method I tried is the "Quadrilateral Method". I removed assumptions about edge lengths but required that interior points be closely approximated by linear interpolation. To get an arbitrary point in the interior you must first interpolate along two edges to generate two intermediate points, then interpolate between these two points to get your desired point. To use the Quadrilateral Method you must now iterate about 8 points: the four corners ("key points"), plus about four "test points": on each iteration you try to guess the values of the test points by interpolation and see how close your guess is to the actual iterates of the test points.    The Quadrilateral Method is quite an improvement, it turns out. This time I got 541 iterations before the first split, then 1082, then 2160, 4320, 5130, 5385. I split into 4 pieces each time, so the last step had 1024 pieces.    The next method involves the use of a curve-fitting function (quadratic, cubic, spline, take your pick) to model the four edges of the iterated point set. The type of curve you pick must lend itself well to interpolating an arbitrary point inside the deformed set. You must now iterate at least eight "key points" because each edge needs at least three key points to serve as the parameters for curve fitting, and you should iterate an equal number of "test points".    I did not implement a Curve Method because at this point in my work I discovered an extremely beautiful feature (nested imbedded Julia Sets) and have been creating QuickTime movies of them ever since. (An example of one of these, which I'd like to call the "Munafo Minibrot", is center_real = -1.769110375463767385, center_imag = +0.009020388228023440, size = 2.0e-17, max_iterations = 10000. Zoom out to size = 1.0e-12 to see one imbedded Julia Set, and zoom out to size = 5.2e-10 to see the other. You really need to use the Distance Estimator method to do justice to these images.)    -> The math behind SOI (very informal: don't complain, sci.math folks!)    SOI is a lot of work for the computer. The formulas used to implement SOI are essentially equivalent to the deriviative (or differential?) of the Mandelbrot iteration function. For curve-fitting methods you are effectively iterating the second deriviative as well. The set of points you are tracking bounces around the complex plane; on each iteration it is rotated and the edge furthest from the origin is stretched a little; at the same time a slight nonlinear curvature is introduced. After P_min iterations (P_min being the period of the smallest-period mu-atom contained in the original rectangle) your iterated set will straddle the origin; when this happens you know that the next iteration will introduce a singularity. (For example, the iterations-before-splitting in the Quadrilateral Method test above, 541, is the period of a mu-molecule located near, but not in, the image.    Because of this effect of mu-atoms on the iterate set distortion, SOI does not perform as well on images that contain low-period mu-atoms. This is the main reason why SOI works so poorly on low-magnification images.    Robert P. Munafo, (old email address)

revisions: 19931223 oldest on record; 20130523 clean up formatting a bit; 20230617 reference the perturbation methods article; 20230618 a few details of USENET posting; 20230620 "Witchcraft" author names

From the Mandelbrot Set Glossary and Encyclopedia, by Robert Munafo, (c) 1987-2024.

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