Petrified Wood: Fractal LXXIII

This weekend’s fractal isn’t very late, when you consider its roots are found 50 million years in the past. The earth was a bit different then... think of it as a post-global-warming world, where greenhouse gasses have already run amok, driving global temperatures. The poles are virtually frost-free, and rainforests reach far into the northern latitudes. Some of our familiar coastline is entirely underwater, including Florida, Louisiana, and a large swath of Texas. On the other side, most of California and Oregon isn’t quite done yet... large chunks of it are still sliding up from Mexico. The dinosaurs are gone, but the crocodiles have stuck around... it’s a warm, wet world... nice if you’re a croc.

Even the land far from the shores isn’t stagnant... the Front Range of the Rockies is rising, along with other swaths of mountains in Utah. The infant peaks are quickly weathering, dropping unique brews of sediments and minerals into the wet valley below. Somewhere in the middle of this wet mess, mineral water collects in a place we’ll someday call Eden Valley, Wyoming. Here, we find lakes, pools and rivers, lined with Macginitiea trees (ancestors of our sycamores):

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[For a closer look, click here: Rainforest Sketch (; North America in the Eocene; Southwest US in the Eocene (detail)]

Before you start thinking of crystal clear lakes in a rainforest paradise, remember that trees, crocs, and mammals aren’t the only organisms who thrive in warm climates. These particular pools are full of algae... teeming with it, in fact. (Perhaps there aren’t many herbivorous animals swimming around.)

We can only guess exactly what happened next. Somehow, perhaps during some intense sub-tropical storm, the mighty trees, those living sycamore-cousins, began to fall into the warm, slimy pools. There, ensconced in algae, the branches lay for ages, shrinking and cracking. As the wood decayed, the mineral-saturated waters evaporated, leaving behind magnesium-rich quartz which crystallized into the gaps in the trees. The tree, mineral, and algae, over time, merged as a solid fossil:

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Petrified Wood from the Blue Forest, in the Eden Valley, Wyoming
(Click the image for a larger version, where the algae clumps can be seen in detail, along with an intact twig.)

And so, 50 million years later, the delicate tree rings and the swirls of agate in this polished piece of petrified wood inspired this week’s fractal:

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Petrified Wood Fractal
(A torus-shaped "Juliabrot" colored by ringed orbit traps.)

Surface of petrified wood scanned by the author. Eocene map/image compiled from the following: Paleogeography of North America and Paleogeography of the southwestern US via Ron Blakey, Department of Geology, Northern Arizona University; image of Eocene rainforest via Ancient Denvers at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Fractal made using ChaosPro.

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