Strange <Block> Buddha

Strange <Block> Buddha offers deterministic and unique variations of the Buddhabrot with each new Bitcoin block. (Please be patient with this page: the generative code runs live.)

Strange <Block> Buddha (live render)

Project Description

Strange <Block> Buddha offers deterministic and unique variations of the Buddhabrot with each new Bitcoin block. Diverging from traditional Buddhabrot renderings of the Mandelbrot set, Strange <Block> Buddha utilizes a unique coloration method and a rotating color order that shifts with every Bitcoin difficulty period.

Echoing the early days of Bitcoin mining, this project performs the necessary computations with the CPU. As Bitcoin’s difficulty has increased over time, so too does the live output of Strange <Block> Buddha, expanding in scale and computational demands. At the upcoming halving, around block 840,000, the artwork’s scale will be 916 x 916 (839,056 pixels). At the last halving, it was 793 x 793 (628,849 pixels), and by the fifth halving, the dimensions will reach 1024 x 1024 (1,048,576 pixels). The project will produce a 9 Megapixel output (3000 x 3000 pixels) at block 9,000,000—over a century from now!

Significant moments in Bitcoin’s timeline are commemorated with special editions. The first block of a Bitcoin ‘blockday’ (144 blocks, starting from the genesis block) produces a Strange <Aurora> Buddha. The concluding block of a difficulty period creates a Strange <Dark> Buddha, while the midpoint block in a difficulty period creates a Strange <Midlight> Buddha. The rarest of all, the halving blocks, are commemorated with a Strange <Celebration> Buddha.

Using block height as the entropy source ensures that each rendering is one-of-a-kind—some appear brighter or darker, with distinctive emergent patterns. The generative script supports vast customization via URL parameters, including block height, iterations, brightness multiplier, SVG generation threshold, and a blockheight-endpoint override. Built-in file export and conversion features allow for easy image and SVG saving during live execution—simply press ‘S’ for an image or ‘V’ for a customizable SVG file, perfect for creative use and plotting. For an interactive experience and to monitor the project’s progress and status, open the console during live execution.

The Five Types of Strange <Block> Buddha

The majority of outputs will be regular Strange <Block> Buddhas, whose entropy changes every block and whose color order rotates every difficulty period, but there are four other special types of Strange <Block> Buddhas that you will experience if you render the artwork at certain block heights. These special renders repeat at specific intervals, creating a rhythm. The images below are the deterministic outputs at the inscription block height and the first occurrences of each of the special Strange <Block> Buddhas following it.

Type: Block (Blockheight 833230)

Interval: 1 / NA

Type: Celebration (Blockheight 840000)

Interval: 210000

Type: Aurora (Blockheight 840096)

Interval: 144

Type: Dark (Blockheight 840671)

Interval: 2016

Type: Midlight (Blockheight 841680)

Interval: 480

Relationship with Time

In Buddhist philosophy, time is often considered an illusion – a result of the mind tethered to the continuous flow of existence. With each Bitcoin block, a period of time is forever crystallized in its immutable ledger. Although we await the arrival of future blocks, we can perceive and understand their place in history, as the blocks that alter mining difficulty or reward follow a predictable sequence. Strange <Block> Buddha allows us to transcend the linear constraint of our perception of time and view the entire past, present, and future of Bitcoin blockheights through its lens.

With each block, a new and distinct Strange <Block> Buddha emerges, its rendered image never to be repeated. These outputs from the algorithm that change every ten minutes are impermanent, beautiful snapshots of the current moment. At the same time, by human intervention through use of URL parameters, any and every blockheight is perceptible – at all times. This dichotomy of impermanence and permanence illustrates the profound interplay between the finite and the infinite, and relates back to Buddhist notions of the illusion of time.

Strange <Block> Buddha invites the viewer to reflect on our relationship with time and explore possibilities that lie beyond the veil of our day-to-day, temporal existence, where every moment is significant, like every block, but fleeting. As you ponder our perception of time, a quote attributed to Gautama Buddha¹ captures the essence of the interplay of permanence and impermanence and the fleeting nature of our lives:

“This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds. To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance. A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky, rushing by like a torrent down a steep mountain.”

 

— Gautama Buddha

 

¹ This quote can be found in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche

 Connections with Bitcoin

The algorithm for Strange <Block> Buddha is inscribed on Bitcoin, because I found the project has many thematic links to Bitcoin. One feature of the algorithm is that the artwork’s dimensions – and therefor the computational difficulty – increases over time as block height increases, just like Bitcoin difficulty has increased with its use. Today’s artwork is approximately 900 x 900 pixels, and like Bitcoin, it has shape and character but much more is yet to come. As the artwork’s dimensions increase, the artwork becomes more complex and beautiful, just as how the Bitcoin network started simply and plainly but grows in complexity and usefulness.

 

Finally, the average Bitcoin block time of about ten minutes gives a viewer an opportunity to appreciate that block’s artwork. The art takes many seconds to generate, and if it were inscribed/minted on a blockchain with shorter blocks, the art might not even complete it’s generation before the next block arrives. So, while some may see Bitcoin as slow, Strange <Block> Buddha relies on that speed as a feature of the work.

The Generative Program

This project utilizes 10kb of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (no libraries) to create the artwork. It is dynamic, and deterministically changes every Bitcoin block. It is interactive and takes URL parameters to override the dynamic default settings, allowing vast customization of the resulting piece.

To incorporate URL parameters, you must include ? at the end of the standard URL, and then add parameter=value. To string multiple parameters, after each parameter=value, add & then add the next parameter and value.

For example: https://strangebuddha.com/?blockheight=848880

Customizable settings via URL parameters:

  • blockheight (defaults to current)
  • blockheight-endpoint (selection from 3 options…)
    • 0: ordinal /r endpoint
    • 1: ordinals.com endpoint
    • 2: blockchain.info endpoint
  • brightness-factor (default 1.5)
  • svg-threshold (default: 100)
  • svg-layer (red/green/blue/white)
  • Advanced Use Only:
    • iterations (default: floor(blockheight/100)
    • escape-radius (default: 32)
Artwork Interactivity

    • S” saves an image.
    • V” converts and downloads a SVG.

 

* requires ‘unstoppable-domains’ supported browser

Acknowledgements

The Mandelbrot rendering technique that creates the Buddhabrot was discovered by Melinda Green in 1993!

The name ‘Buddhabrot’ was later coined by Lori Gardi.

Frequently, “traditional” Buddhabrot images are presented as monochrome density plots or as false-color images created by separately coloring multiple monochrome renders that differ by their max iteration parameters (typically very high values). Strange <Block> Buddha takes a different approach where initial color channels are assigned within a single render by using the point’s escape value compared to the overall range of escape values (while using a significantly lower max iteration value). This difference in approach (along with the project’s close connection to blockheight) inspired the alternate name structure for this variation of the Buddhabrot.

Inscription Details

Strange <Block> Buddha is inscribed as digital artifact on Bitcoin using ordinal theory.

The images to side are all default outputs from the program, corresponding to the blockheight at which it was inscribed (833230) and the subsequent 8 blocks that followed. Click to open one and then swipe or click to view the next or prior in the series – notice how different they are!

Over time, the canvas size and resulting Strange <Block> Buddha increases in size. This increase in computational complexity mirrors the increases in Bitcoin ‘Mining Difficulty’ over time.

Environmental Responsibility

Bitcoin is a proof of work network, and it uses a lot of electricity. I created this calculator to determine the possible (pessimistic) impact of my use of the network. The results: I could offset the carbon footprint of minting Strange <Block> Buddha for about $25.

I prefer Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to carbon offsets, which are used to both ensure the electricity used comes from renewable resources and encourages efforts to create additional renewable resources. Strange <Block> Buddha only needed about 3 RECs, but I bumped it up to 5 in order for the project to go a bit ‘above and beyond.’

Plotted Outputs

Built in functions convert the Strange <Block> Buddha data into SVG layers that can be plotted or used in vector graphic software. By modifying the SVG threshold with URL parameters and customizing which layers to download, one has a lot of data available.

The following is a standard plot of the ‘white’ or brightness layer of the default SVG generated from the project’s “reference” blockheight of 800,000. Every block creates a different Strange <Block> Buddha (including some super special ones!), and the brightness of any particular output can vary. Using URL parameters, SVG brightness thresholds can be modified, allowing customized plots at any blockheight.

Standard plot of Strange <Block> Buddha at blockheight 800,000 (default settings).

Plotter Notes: This is a pointilism plot, where the pen ‘taps’ the paper hundreds of times. Try not to add any downward pressure to the pen when fitting into the holder to avoid unnecessary wear and tear on your hardware. The plot above was executed with a white Gelly Roll.

Prints and Plots are available!

Standard Plot at Blockheight 833230 in White Gel (other colors available)

3-Color Plot at Blockheight 833230 in Metallic Gel (other colors available)

Signed and editioned prints and plots of Strange <Block> Buddha are available to anyone. Plots are made with archival gel ink(s) on acid-free cardstock, and prints are made with archival inks on acid-free Moab Juniper Baryta Rag 305 paper. Shipping is included for domestic (USA) addresses. International addresses will have an additional charge – contact Matto.

Pricing for both products is the same, and there are two options:

    • Standard Plot/Print: monochrome (white on black), $100.
    • Multicolor Plot/Print: 3 color plot or full color print, $200.

Any past blockheight can be ordered. For plots, some pen and paper options are available, please discuss with Matto. Both prints and plots will be editioned by output type (plot and print editions will start at 0 and will increment separately).

Remit Eth payments to 0x472a7E9Cd77aEA520690a9cE8fc72750e7a1f3d3
Remit BTC payments to bc1qktswt4qlkv3pg3qjjl0xhytwx90484zcyq96en