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Fractals are introduced with the hope that it will be generative. Ultimately students should discover a relationship between scaling, copies and dimension.

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(a) 0th iteration

(b) 1st iteration

(c) 2nd iteration

(d) 20th iteration

Figure 1: Sierpi´

nski Carpet Fractal.

Problems of the day:

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**Assuming that the area of the black square in (a) is equal to 9.
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(a) How could we calculate the area in each of the drawings (b) – (d)?

**(b) Write a general rule for the area after n iterations. What is the area after
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an infinite number of iterations? Does your answer surprise you?

**(c) If you have extra time, consider what else you might measure that is also
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a function of n?

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Now, we are ready for an application that relates the concept of fractals (Figure 1) to the concept of fractional exponents. First let’s clarify what mathematicians mean when we use the word dimension:

(a) In the rectangle below, draw one square with unit side length (l = 1).

Next to it, draw a two-times scaled (s = 2) version of the square with

twice the side length (l = 2).

**(b) How many copies (c) of the first square are needed to construct the second
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square? How many are needed for a three-times scaled (s = 3) square?

**(c) We have been working with two dimensional (d = 2) objects. How would
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your answer to part (b) change for one dimensional (d = 1) line segments?

Three dimensional (d = 3) solids? Points (d = 0)? Answer the question

by completing the table below.

shape

dimension

scaling

copies

(d)

factor (s)

(c)

square

2

1

1

square

2

2

square

2

3

segment

1

1

segment

1

2

cube

3

1

cube

3

2

point

0

1

point

0

2

(d) Can you come up with a relationship between dimension (d), copies (c),

and scaling factor (s)?

(e) Challenge! Using your relationship in (d), can you determine the dimension of the object in Figure 1?

**he dimension, d, of a fractal depends upon its construction rule. As you
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can imagine, this structural parameter also critically influences a physical object’s function. Engineers and Nature (via natural selection)1 have

repeatedly capitalized on this strategy. For example, the many different

length scales of a cell phone fractal antenna absorb a wider range of electromagnetic

frequencies using only a fraction of the footprint.

T

(a) Fractal

(b) Cell phone

**Figure 2: Fractal in technology.
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Design question! If you were an engineer and you were considering fractal materials, what variable would you likely want to know the most, the material’s surface

area, volume, or fractal dimension? Why?

**Bonus Challenge! Make your own fractal with a tunable dimension, d; 0 < d < 1?
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**There are many naturally occurring instances of fractal geometry in nature, including the
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branching on trees, sponges and internal organs such as the lungs, neurons and kidneys