Experimenting with Fractals

Why do fractals fascinate? The human mind seeks and recognizes patterns and nature offers them for our viewing pleasure. Lightning bolts, fault lines, mountain ranges, and river networks are just a few forms fractals take in the world around us. Pictured above is Romanesco broccoli, a visually striking example of fractals in nature. An interesting aside is that the number of spirals on the head of this remarkable vegetable is a Fibonacci number.

But fractal fascination goes beyond an affinity for mathematics and pretty patterns. Since nature is composed of fractals, recursive programming offers us the opportunity to build models of nature. The Koch snowflake is an early example of one such recursive algorithm. Fractal geometry can help us predict the unpredictable such as earthquakes and urban growth. It is used in pathology and neuroscience.  And let’s face it. We wouldn’t have those great video game graphics without it.


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