Popular science written by
Dr. Abhijit Kar Gupta
,
email:
kg.abhi@gmail.com
1
FRACTAL – what is it?

Abhijit Kar Gupta
Geometry plays an important role in our perception of things all around. We learnthe shapes, forms, growths or decay in Nature through the concept of Geometry. Wehere discuss some forms of Geometry which are peculiar as opposed to theEuclidean Geometry we are familiar with.Let us begin with a line; straight or curved. The ‘measure’ of a line segment is itslength
l
. Line is a one dimensional object (Euclidean dimension
1
=
d
). A square or acircle is two‐dimensional (
)2
=
d
; the measure is here ‘area’. For a square, area =
2
l
and for a circle it is
2
.
l
π
. Likewise for a three‐dimensional object such as a cube or asphere, the volume
3
l
or
3
.)3/4(
l
π
is the ‘measure’ of the corresponding object here.We can have measurement of any irregular surface area or a volume and check that the area or the volume comes as something proportional to
2
l
or
3
l
, where
l
is themeasuring scale.In mathematical language,
length
is volume in one dimension and
area
is volume in2‐dimension. Anyway, what we see is that the ‘volume’ carries the information of dimension. For example, we can say that the powers 2 and 3 over
l
in the above arenothing but the dimensions of the objects, sometimes called ‘embedding dimension’(the minimum dimension where the object is embedded). In general,
volume
∝
d
l
,where
=
d
1, 2 or 3.Let us now take a square and divide this into 4 equal parts as the following:If we now subdivide each of the 4 small squares into 4 equal pieces as before, thearea of each of the smallest pieces reduces to 1/4
th
of that of a small square of theabove and likewise length reduces to ½ of that of the small square. We can do thisexercise as long as we wish. A little investigation reveals that at any stage, thenumber of one smallest square piece is inversely proportional to the square of itssize:
the
smaller you cut more pieces you get.
For example, in the 1
st
generation(
)1
=
n
we have
4
1
=
N
,
2/1
1
=
l
; in the 2
nd
generation (
)2
=
n
, we have
16
2
=
N
,
4/1
2
=
l
and so on.The area reduces to 8/9
th
of the original area and the total border(perimeter) of the square geometry increases as it creates new bordersinside.
The area of each piece has become 1/4
th
of theoriginal and the length of each reduces to ½ of theoriginal.