# How to plot complex numbers one-dimensionally?

Normally, complex numbers are plotted on a 2d plane where real numbers are the x coordinate and imaginary numbers are the y coordinate. I'd like to plot complex numbers in such a way that I can represent it in one dimension.

Sure, I could plot the complex number(s) in a 2d-plane, take cross-sections of it, and line them up, but that isn't very "mathematical" and it loses a lot of beauty that many images on the complex plane have (hint: fractals).

I was wondering if there were any methods of plotting numbers on the complex plane. Maybe using imaginary numbers to determine spacing between real numbers, or using some other algorithm to combine the real and imaginary numbers and listing that. I'd like to find something that isn't just listing the real and imaginary values together on a number line, but something that actually preserves the beauty of arrangements in the complex plane in a one-dimensional environment. This question could also be more generally taken as "how to plot 2d coordinates in one-dimension" if that solves the problem.

Update:

I ended up using a hilbert curve to travel through the points. This wasn't the "mathematical" approach I'd originally hoped for, but it worked for my purposes.

• Maybe you are looking for a "nice" isomorphism between $\mathbb R^2$ and $\mathbb R$, which probably does not exist (as a constructible one, with the preserving properties you want). See this and this. Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 23:52
• Perhaps a space-filling curve would be useful, as nearby points tend to remain nearby. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z-order_curve for a simple example. Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 0:22
• @Claude At first glance, that looks really good! One thing I noticed is that it looks astonishingly similar to the 3-dimensional version of the hilbert curve. Maybe that's how it was generated in the first place? Either way, that looks good. Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 0:42