In the world of computer graphics, a particle system is a technique that uses many small graphical primitives (such as lines, points, triangles, and polygons) to represent objects such as smoke, fire, or even hair, which don’t have clear geometric shapes and hence are difficult to model using standard techniques.

For example, how would you create an explosion on your computer (without using lighter fluid, that is)? Imagine the explosion originating from a point in space and growing outward as a rapidly expanding, complex, three-dimensional entity that changes shape and color over time. Trying to model this mathematically is ...

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