Fantastic Fractals

What is a fractal?

Everything that we see around us has a shape and structure which plays a strong influence on the properties of that object and its purpose on the Earth. A ball can roll because it is round, and cubes can stack because they have flat surfaces: Just imagine trying to stack balls, or roll a cube! The effects would be quite different!

A ball and a cube are descriptions of simple shapes. Much more complex structures exist, such as the windy helix of a DNA, or a kaleidoscope pattern. One particularly fascinating structure is the fractal.

The shape, starting with a simple star consisting of two equilateral triangles, constantly reproduces, or ‘copies’ itself on each side of the original shape to form a more and more complex figure. This process can continue for ever, the branches at each stage getting smaller and smaller, forming an infinitely complex shape. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org)

 

Amazingly, this kind of pattern can be seen throughout nature. Our blood vessels branch out in a fractal pattern, ensuring oxygen gets to all parts of our body evenly. And the next time you see a broccoli floret, a snowflake or a fern leaf, have a close look; they branch like fractals! Shockwaves from earthquakes and the shape of clouds are also governed by fractals. They even influence processes in space, and how stars and galaxies form!

 

The beauty of fractals is often used by artists to form some pretty cool pictures, and you can also find them on computer games, providing realistic shape to animated landscapes and backgrounds. So from the tiniest cell to the vastness of outer space, these astonishing shapes govern the life of many things we see around us everyday. See how many you can find!

 

 

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