Visually Hymning the Carbon Cycle

The animation “Surface Detail,” by subBlue, gets dizzyingly fractal fast. Ensconced in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, I expect the white-shaded, radiating symmetries to evoke the snow; instead, I’m thinking of ammonites from Ernst Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur (below right).

I’m thinking of the ammonites because of a recent study that finds a correlation between mass extinctions of ammonite species and long periods of fluctuation in the Earth’s carbon cycle. The study authors suggest that with the mass extinctions came a loss of “ecological redundancy” that threw the planet’s ecosystems into millions of years of wild gyrations.

There’s some chicken-and-egg reasoning to work through there—and in any case, mass extinctions are a heavy load for a piece of computer animation to bear. But then it’s pretty to remember, watching redundant forms spinning and transforming, that life did prevail, loss of redundancy notwithstanding; the losses become part of the pattern. —video via Beyond the Beyond

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