Randomness

Randomness, and the statistics which describe it, is not a popular thing with most people -- especially as it affects their own lives. Nobody wants to hear from their physician that "Charlie, you have a probably of .83 for recovery from your condition." What we crave is certainty, and we are much more attracted to those who offer certainty (even if deceptive) than those who peddle randomness and statistics.

An impressive number of people refuse to believe that a roulette wheel or a slot machine is truly random, and are sure that there is a pattern there "If I can just figure it out".

But yet when we look around, randomness is everywhere. The trees on a hillside all have different sizes and shapes. The waves on a pond never repeat. The purposefully-walking people on the street present an ever-changing picture. A married couple will give you a highly-improbable story about how they first met.

Only mathematicians and physicists love randomness. Mathematicians love randomness in pure form -- where all events are equally probable. In the mathematician's view, an attractive woman has equal likelihood of pairing up with any man in the world. But we know that such events are constrained -- she will only interact with the men she actually encounters on her path through the world. Such constrained probabilities are much more welcome to physicists, who have over time built up an elaborate statistical picture of the universe, with randomness as its foundation.

Order is the opposite of randomness. In natural scenes we recognize both order and randomness at the same time. The trees on the hillside are ordered in the sense that two trees almost never grow at the same place. The average distance between them will be a few meters. Thus they have "short-range order". The trees have little or no long-range order unless they have been planted by humans in some pattern. Most people instinctively prefer natural scenes without obviously perceived order, and would say that a naturally-seeded forest is more attractive than trees planted exactly 6 meters apart.

Most art seen in museums has few elements of order and symmetry (Escher being a notable exception). Elementary school students are taught in art classes that you should draw or paint odd numbers of things, not placed symmetrically. Randomness, one concludes, is welcome in art.

What is offered here could be described as "randomness as art", or "computation imitates nature". The art is in designing the statistical distribution of things. The program then implements this distribution as it constructs and places the various flowers, trees, etc. using random numbers in a manner constrained by the distribution chosen. example