You are on page 1of 4

(a) 0th iteration

(b) 1st iteration

(c) 2nd iteration

(d) 20th iteration

Figure 1: Sierpi´
nski Carpet Fractal.

Problems of the day:

1

Assuming that the area of the black square in (a) is equal to 9.
(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

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

2

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
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
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
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.
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?
1

There are many naturally occurring instances of fractal geometry in nature, including the
branching on trees, sponges and internal organs such as the lungs, neurons and kidneys