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Create Your Own Universe

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A particle system is a computer graphics model for convincingly simulating fluid or fuzzy objects such as flame, smoke, water bubbles, and the like. (The idea behind particle systems was dreamed up by Bill Reeves, a computer graphics artist, while working on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.) Parcycle is a beautiful rendition of a particle system that exploits some of the more interesting powers of the HTML5 canvas element and of Internet Explorer 9.

Parcycle presents a black page rippling and exploding with color, along with a set of sliders whose labels are imposingly technical: spread X & Y, end random - rgba, gravity & direction, and so forth. But they make more sense if you think of them in computer terms. For instance, "rgba" is an acronym for red, green, blue, and alpha, where alpha is the level of transparency. The sliders, which react to your mouse, allow you to control the various parameters that go into building the system. Mouse over the canvas, and watch the particles bloom. Then click sliders to your heart's content to adjust colors, spread, density, transparency, and other factors affecting the animation.

It's an amazing display of programming chops, and was developed by Web scripting master Earle Castledine, a.k.a. Mr. Speaker. But what I think is the coolest part is the way Castledine makes it possible to share the environments you create. If you click the "save" icon, Parcycle produces a seemingly cryptic string of number separated by commas. This is actually a list of all your settings, with the added hash tag #parcycle and a shortened link, all prepared for posting to Twitter. And if you do tweet your code, Parcycle will make it available to future visitors; if they click the little birdie icon in the site's menu, Parcycle searches Twitter for all posts with the right hash tag and the right kind of numbers and loads up those posts for your browsing pleasure.

This story, "Create Your Own Universe" was originally published by BrandPost.

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