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The Art of Steven Rooke

     While working as a senior systems programmer at the National Optical Astronomy Observatories (NOAO) in Tucson, Arizona, Steven Rooke began spending much of his personal time investigating the fields of algorithmic art and ecosystem theory. A discussion of Gaia Theory with Drs. Ralph Abraham (1) and Rupert Sheldrake (2) inspired him to leave NOAO and begin a new career, combining computer and evolutionary sciences with art.

     As in biological evolution, Steven Rooke's art is brought to life through a Darwinian cycle of reproduction, random mutation, and survival of the fittest adult "organisms" through competition and cooperation to reproduce again. Images are selectively "bred" from an initial population of approximately 100 images that were created earlier. (3) Offspring of this process are then examined by Rooke, who assigns an aesthetic fitness score to each image. After this subjective evaluation, the command to "spawn" is given. The images then reproduce by a "sexual mixing" of the virtual genes of the parents. Random mutations are also introduced during this process.

     Just as a fertilized animal egg grows into millions of cells, each containing an identical copy of its DNA, an image is "born" when its genetic structure is expressed as millions of colored pixels. Just as an animal is born with an identical copy of its DNA in every cell, each pixel in a piece of evolutionary art contains an identical copy of the "genes" of the entire work. After a visually appealing image has evolved, Rooke terminates the process of evolution (the equivalent of a mass extinction) and begins a lengthy process of fine-tuning the image for the production of a high quality photographic print.

     The image on the cover of this book, "The Awakening of the Noosphere," took approximately 172 hours of processing on an SGI workstation to compute.














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