Turing Patterns, Morphogenesis
Stir up the patterns behind this text with your mouse and you'll see a
pretty accurate visualisation of what I used to 'see' as a child, eyes closed,
most nights before falling asleep.
Fields of drifting entities, purple on green, or the inverse, sometimes
turning yellow-orange on green, diffusing in the immanent glow behind my
This simulation was not my intention when I started working with the
'Turing Patterns' code template*, I was simply exploring WebGL, the powerful
Web Graphics Library
Very quickly though and almost automatically - before realising that I
had seen it before - I scripted close to what you see here.
Stirring the Proustian brew of code to output visuals ever more like my
flashback, I thought of André Breton's automatic writing
but I was also reminded of a rhyme us kids used to chant in the
'entries' or back alleys of Ladybarn, near the University of Manchester where
Alan Turing did his groundbreaking work on Morphogenesis. There is a psychedelic
fragment of the rhyme in John Lennon's,
I am the Walrus
"Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye"
As I recall, I first saw the Beatles' film-trip Magical Mystery
in 1968, aged 13, along with the cinematic mandala
by James Whitney, at Manchester's Detra Arts Lab
shortly before going to a
Pink Floyd gig
The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. The
institution formerly known as UMIST is now part of the larger [Victoria]
University of Manchester, where the Alan Turing Building is home to the
School of Mathematics.
Alan Turing, often called the Father of all computer hardware and software,
purportedly took his own life after being vilified by the British Government
for his homosexuality. His brilliance helped the Allies crack Nazi code during
World War Two, but during the ensuing Cold War with the Soviet Bloc, he was
considered a security liability. Confined to his home and forced to accept
injections of oestragen to 'cure' his gayness, he morphogenetically developed
breasts and died in 1954, the year I was born to Doris.
In 1970, when I told her I was going to Art School and not to
University, my Mother told me that I should 'go into computers'.
She had little education and I thought she didn't really understand the
, but she used to watch Tomorrow's World
and University Challenge
on the 'telly' and she knew Manchester
was home to ICL and UMIST as well as Coronation Street
Doris died this year - 2013 - a week short of her 96th Birthday. Now
that she's gone, I will sometimes reflect publicly that, 'I wish I'd listened to
what me Mam told me when I was a lad
!' and then I'll wait...
...invariably someone will ask, 'well, what did she tell you
?' and I'll
be ready with the terse Mancunian response,
"'d'no'! 'di'n' lis'en!"
Here's the generative algo-rhyme for these recollections:
"Yeller belly custard, green snot pie,
All mixed together with a dead dog's eye.
Slap it on a buttie, nice 'n thick,
Then wash it down with a cup o' cold sick!"
- as John Lennon would tell you, a 'buttie' is a sandwich in the Northwest of England.
Summer 1964, the memory is vivid, running through the cobblestone back
entry to Thorn Grove, Fallowfield, Manchester 14, the latest Beatles hit on my
lips, one of Doris' jam-butties in my mouth, another in my hand,
over-stimulated wasps in pursuit, the summer smell of dogshit on my shoe...
...but what were those patterns every night, Mam?