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comment by yakov
yakov  ·  1115 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Roots, Roots!


What method did you use to find the roots? And how long did it take to render?

tvirlip  ·  1115 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Okay, technical details.

Calculating roots

There are multiple numerical methods to find complex roots of polynomials. I'm aware about Durand-Kerner method ( and Dandelin-Graeffe method ('s_method), where "aware" means "I know that they exist". I did not implement root finding myself; instead I've used GNU scientific library ( and built-in function of it called gsl_poly_complex_solve ( The documentation claims that they use "balanced-QR reduction of the companion matrix" and I have no idea what is it and was not aware about it existence before. Since I wrote my code in OCaml, I've used OCaml bindings for GSL (from


After the roots are calculated, I transform them to pixel coordinates, making sure that the whole thing scaled to the given image size (I must admit that I crop out some purely real roots, nothing interesting there). Then, according to pixel coordinates, I write 'FFFFFF' (i.e. "white") bytes to the corresponding positions in an array. This array backs up Cairo ( surface of the 20000x20000 size, and Cairo PNG module is used to write the result to a file. Again, I needed OCaml bindings (

This approach limits the resolution of the image; for example, Cairo fails to create surface of 40000x40000 size. See below for future plans.


Most of the time is taken by calculating the roots and scaling them to fill the image of the given size; contribution of drawing and writing png file is noticeable but insignificant. On Macbook Pro with 3GHz Intel Core i7 the whole process takes about 40 minutes; drawing the picture and writing it to file takes about 2-3 minutes.


- I preferred convenience in writing to optimization, so there's a lot of work for garbage collector when it kicks in -- the pauses are quite noticeable.

- The whole thing is written in a pretty dumb way, it runs in one thread only, so no multi-CPU multi-core benefits.

- Everything is kept in memory until image rendered. As as result I cannot do degree 25 or more, as I'm running out of memory (I have 16 Gb of RAM). Memory usage definitely can be optimized. See "convenience over optimization" point above.

Future plans

I have started to rewrite everything in a parallel fashion. I also plan to do rendering in chunks (like "top left quarter image, top right quarter image, bottom left quarter image, bottom right quarter image") -- this would allow me to have much higher resolution. When this is done, I'll rent an hour from some Amazon high-memory high-CPU server and will do much better resolution and higher degree.

Minor disappointment

I have expected that drawing the picture of degree 23 on top of the picture of degree 24 would be interesting. Not so. Here is the degree 23 (in green) on top of degree 24 (in cyan):

Green is basically distributed everywhere -- more in the middle of the ring, but also in all interesting fractal-like parts.

Here is degree 22 (in orange) on top of degree 23 (in green) on top of degree 24 (in cyan):

Same story. Adding more degrees creates the mess of colored pixels.

But what's clear (from bigger pictures which I do not share) is that my resolution is too rough to see how exactly degree 23 roots overlap degree 24 roots in interesting areas. Stay tuned :)

wasoxygen  ·  1114 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I cannot do degree 25 or more, as I'm running out of memory

The image appears to have horizontal and vertical symmetry, but I haven't been able to have a good look at it without my browser overheating.

If it is symmetric, could you calculate one quadrant and then reflect it to build the whole image?

tvirlip  ·  1114 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Well, the picture is symmetric. Vertical symmetry comes from the fact that if z is a root of a polynomial with real coefficients then the complex conjugate z' is also a root of the same polynomial (if z = a + bi then the complex conjugate z' is defined as z = a - bi). The horizontal symmetry comes from the fact that if z is a root of a polynomial, then -z is a root of polynomial which can be constructed by negating the sign of each coefficient next to each odd degree. As I'm looking at all polynomials with coefficients +1 or -1, for every root z of some polynomial I have a root -z for some other polynomial.

This indeed gives some possibilities:

- I can draw only 1/4 of the picture, and construct the result out of it

- I can store only 1/4 of all the roots (only top right quadrant, for example)

- I can do calculations for only 1/2 of all the polynomials (but I need some logic to keep track if I need to find the roots of the polynomial or not -- would be simple, though)

- I cannot calculate only half of the roots, because, as I've mentioned above, vertically symmetric roots are coming in pairs in the same polynomial, and the method used by GSL library for finding the roots does not produce roots one by one, instead calculating the whole set of roots at the same time.

All in all, these optimizations would save about 50% of the calculation time and about 75% of memory, also I'd be able to double the resolution. I should be able to do the power 25, and, maybe 26. But not 27. And I dream about doing 32, and increasing the resolution of the picture ten-fold. So I'll rather at first focus on doing the whole thing in more parallel manner, with results not being stored in memory -- but yes, symmetry-based optimization is definitely one of the things to do after that. Thanks for suggestion!