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FRACTAL-what is it?

# FRACTAL-what is it?

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Fractals are geometrical objects having fractional dimensions. Self-similarity in all length scales is a key characteristic. Common examples include porus rocks, clouds, cauliflowers etc.
Fractals are geometrical objects having fractional dimensions. Self-similarity in all length scales is a key characteristic. Common examples include porus rocks, clouds, cauliflowers etc.

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03/26/2012

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Popular science written by

Dr. Abhijit Kar Gupta
,
e-mail:
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
. Line is a one dimensional object (Euclidean dimension
1
=
). A square or acircle is two‐dimensional (
)2
=
; the measure is here ‘area’. For a square, area =
2
and for a circle it is
2
.
π
. Likewise for a three‐dimensional object such as a cube or asphere, the volume
3
or
3
.)3/4(
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
or
3
, where
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
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

,where
=
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
=
; in the 2
nd
generation (
)2
=
n
, we have
16
2
=
N
,
4/1
2
=
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.

Popular science written by

Dr. Abhijit Kar Gupta
,
e-mail:
kg.abhi@gmail.com
2
When we perform the same thing over the remaining 8 equal square segments, theresulting figure looks like the following:As we go on doing the same thing repeatedly we end up witha peculiarly perforated carpet whose remaining area goesdown and down and the perimeter goes up and up at everystep. The object is self similar as we blow up a certainportion, it looks like the original.If
n
N
be the number of the smallest square pieces (that comprise the original square) at the n‐th generation and
1
+
n
N
be that of the
)1(
+
n
‐th generation where
n
and
1
+
n
are the corresponding lengths,we can write:
211
   =
++
nnnn
N  N
.Therefore, we can write:
2lnln
11
=       
++
nnnn
N  N
. Thus we get back the dimension 2of the square. The same procedure can be repeated for a cube and likewise wearrive at dimension 3. Thus in general, for any object in 2 or 3 or any otherdimension, we can write,
       =
++
11
lnln
nnnn
N  N
,
=
1, 2, 3….Now we can think of a different kind of geometry. Let us begin with a square again.Divide this into 4 equal pieces as before but this time cut out the central piece. Wenow have the dimension (length) of each of the small squares is 1/3
rd
of the originalbig square and we are now left with the number of pieces to be one less. So,
819
1
==
N
and
31
1
=
,
being the length of each side of the original square. Aswe repeat the same for the 2
nd
generation, we have
6488
2
=×=
N
and
91
1
=
.I we now go on doing this indefinitely, we are left with a carpet like structure wheresquare holes are everywhere and of all length scales. This carpet is very special andis known as ‘
Sierpinsky carpet
’. Take a small portion of this carpet and blow it up,it appears the same original full carpet. This means the object is
self similar
. If wejust consider two generations, we can evaluate the dimension of this carpet:

Popular science written by

Dr. Abhijit Kar Gupta
,
e-mail:
kg.abhi@gmail.com
3

       =
39ln864ln
=
89.13ln2ln33ln8ln
=
which is less than 2.Thus we arrive at a peculiar self similar geometrical object whose dimension is afractional number (1.89) although the object is embedded in 2‐dimension. This kindof geometrical object is called FRACTAL.Think of another example where we start from a
equilateral triangle
. Divide thetriangle into four equal parts and take out the middle one. Repeat the sameprocedure for each of the small parts in the successive generations which lead to thefollowing self similar object called ‘
’. Consider the number of pieces and the dimensions in the three successive generations:
,3
1
=
N

2/
1
=
;
,933
2
=×=
N

4/
1
=
and
,27333
3
=××=
N

8/
3
=
.The dimension of the above object is then
)4/8ln( )4/27ln(
=
=
58.12ln3ln
which is againa fractional number and is less than 2.This way we can create self similar geometrical objects in 2‐dimension in a regularfashion, the dimensions of those are found to be some fraction less than 2. The samecan be repeated on an object in 3‐dimension like a cube, the self similar objects arefound to have dimensions to be some fraction less than 3 but greater than 2.We may notice the following essential properties of these fractal objects:

Self‐similarity in all length scales

Perimeter of such a object keeps increasing indefinitely

The volume to surface ratio also diminishes with the successive iterations.Let us examine:If
p
denotes the perimeter, then the successive values of it for the first threegenerations for a Sierpinsky gasket are
233
1
p
××=
,
439
2
p
××=
and
8327
3
p
××=
.Now,
234398327
23
=××××=
p p
> 1. In general, we find
nn
p p
23
1
=
+
. So, with eachiteration, the perimeter increases by 1.5 times than that of the previous generation.Similarly, for the successive volumes we find
43
1
=
,
21
434343
   =×=
and in this way
nn
   =
43
. Thus we have

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