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Polylines have abrupt, often sharp corners as they trace out a circuit. These paths do not flow, they jerk. To smooth a polyline path into a flowing curve, Bakker uses what mathematicians call spline interpolation. This is a bit like fitting a thin springy strip of steel around a set of pegs to form a curved path that touches each peg.
Cubic functions (the simplest is y = x3) have curvy, S-shaped graphs. They have the remarkable property that, given four points (not all on a line), there is a cubic function whose graph goes through those four points. If the four points are fairly close to each other, the piece of the cubic curve running through them (called a spline) closely approximates line segments that connect the points. Using splines, Bakker can replace each sharp V-shaped corner of a polyline path with a U-shaped curve. The result is a smoothly curvaceous circuit that travels through all the corners of the polyline path.
The curved loop that results from smoothing a polyline circuit in space is merely a skeleton doodle with no thickness and no body. This must be provided by the artist. A simple thickening coats the curve so it has a uniformly shaped cross-section such as a circle (which produces a tube covering), a square, or triangle. The width and thickness of the curve’s covering can be varied for aesthetic reasons. This can suggest a change of speed and spread as the curve flows, much like water flowing in a creek that meanders through changing terrain.
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