Fractal Geometry

James Fielder

Why is geometry often described as "cold" and "dry"? One reason lies in its inability to describe the shape of a cloud, a mountain, or a tree. Clouds are not spheres, mountains not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line. The opening of "The Fractal Geometry of Nature" by Benoit Mandelbrot Take a point called Z in the complex plane Let Z1 be Z squared plus C And Z2 is Z1 squared plus C And Z3 is Z2 squared plus C and so on If the series of Z’s should always stay Close to Z and never trend away That point is in the Mandelbrot Set Mandelbrot Set by Jonathan Coulton

1 2 Introduction Defining Fractal Geometry 2.1 Structure on arbitrarily small scales . 2.2 Self-similarity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3 Hausdorff dimension . . . . . . . . . . 2.4 The four types of Fractal . . . . . . . . 2.4.1 Iterated Function Systems . . 2.4.2 Recursively Defined Fractals 2.4.3 Random Fractals . . . . . . . . 2.4.4 Chaotic Attractors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 5 5 5 6 6 8 8 9 10


The History of Fractal Geometry 3.1 Set Theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.1.1 The Cantor Ternary Set . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2 The Weierstrass Function . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.3 The Koch Snowflake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.4 The Sierpi´ nski Triangle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.5 The Julia and Fatou set . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.6 Benoit Mandelbrot, his set, and the essay that started it all 3.7 After Mandelbrot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


. [25] • Self-similarity throughout the structure of the fractal. . . . [25] • A fine structure on arbitrarily small scales. . . . . . [16] This captures many peoples initial fascination with fractals. . . . [17] In order to fully understand these. . . . . . . .4 A few other examples . . . . . . . Conclusions . . . . . . I hope to show you how the stunning images of fractals that are available today. . . . . and still continue. . . . . . Also to show that fractals are still an emerging field with exciting developments to be found. . . . . . . . . . 10 11 12 12 12 12 13 13 7 1 Introduction Why are fractals just so fascinating? These enigmatic and beautiful objects have been capturing people’s imagination for many years. .1 Structure on arbitrarily small scales The most direct and succinct definition you will commonly hear of a fractal is that one can zoom infinitely on the shape. . • A Hausdorff dimension which is greater than its topological dimension. . Finally I hope to show why fractals are more than just mere mathematical curiosities. . . . . . 6. . .2 Fractals in Theoretical Physics 6. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . that they have important and powerful uses in fields as far reaching as theoretical physics to medicine and biochemistry. . . . .1 Fractals in Weather analysis . . . . and still see an ever increasing amount of detail. . particularly on the Internet. and even more mesmerizing to play with on a computer. . . and what these definitions actually mean. . . . 2 . . and being mathematically minded myself. . we must understand exactly what a fractal is. . . . . . . . This leads onto self similarity. . . . . In this project. . . . are generated and rendered. . . . 2. . . 2 Defining Fractal Geometry Before any of the discussion of the properties and interesting aspects of fractal geometry. . I hope to demonstrate how visually and mathematically pleasing fractal geometry is. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fractals are fascinating to look at. . . as it seems strange that the detail you are seeing can go on forever. we must consider each one of them separately. . . . 6. . . . . . which makes it very difficult if not impossible to describe it in terms of standard Euclidean geometry. . . There are 3 defining properties of fractals that all mathematicians seem to be able to agree on. . . . . .3 Fractals in Biological systems . . it is no surprise that I fell in love with them when I first laid eyes on them. . . . .4 5 6 Generating images of Fractals Fractals in Art Fractals in Science and Nature 6. . to scales that would make the size of the universe seem tiny.

e. 17. which exhibit the three types of self-similarity.4 The four types of Fractal There are three main types of fractals. which is more like the concept that one generally has of dimension.2 Self-similarity As one continuous to explore a fractal. The ball of center P and radius r is the set of points of distance to P less than r . but have features which recur throughout the object. recursively defined fractals and random fractals. 17] Then. [25] • Quasi self-similarity : Fractals like this are not exactly the same on all scales. For example. These generally do not look self-similar. This self-similarity is one of the main factors that gives fractals their unique properties. [7. i. 17] 2. generated by processes like random walks (brownian motion is a good example of this). which is the number of points required to fully define any place in that space.2. These are: Iterated function systems. and for all d < d0 (resp.3 Hausdorff dimension The Hausdorff dimension of an object is widely referred to as the fractal dimension of a shape. Let us examine these four separately. A space endowed with a distance map. [25. This value d0 is the Hausdorff dimension of the set and therefore the Hausdorff dimension of the fractal. 1 2 3 . Fractals defined by recursion relations usually exhibit this behaviour. While there are other notions of dimension. 13. structures that have been seen before will begin to repeat themselves. A good example is the Koch snowflake. for some d0 . • Exact self-similarity : The strongest form of self-similarity. that d π2 the volume of a ball of radius r is r d where Γ is the gamma function. Note Vd the minimal Γ( d + 1 ) 2 volume of such covers. quasi self-similarity and statistical self-similarity. It is also worth considering chaotic attractors. Measure the volume of such covers by summing the volume of the balls and pretending each ball has dimension d . fractal dimension) from the fractal are preserved from one scale to another. Take a fractal set in a metric space1 and consider covers of it by balls 2 . the Hausdorff measure is regarded as being the most relevant in fractal geometry. This is unlike the topological dimension of a fractal. [7. d > d0 ) Vd is infinite (resp. this implies that the fractal looks identical at all scales. for example any Euclidean space n for n ∈ . only statistical measures or numerical quantities calculated (for example. 12. For this self-similarity. zooming in on certain places in the Mandelbrot set will lead to objects within the set that look like the set again. the Hausdorff dimension can take any positive value. 12. this concept generalizes that of discs in the plane. This is usually something that fractals defined by iterated function systems have. There are three types of self similarity: Exact self-similarity. zero). 5] 2. the Vd0 is finite. [20] • Statistical self-similarity : This is usually exhibited by random fractals. and a good example of this would be the Mandelbrot set. Since the function to calculate the volume of the spheres is continuous.

which shares some 3 The numbers are nearly always in although fractals do exist that have a complex power in them. These are most commonly plotted using escape time algorithms. Hutchinson but were popularised by Michael Barnsley in his book "Fractals Everywhere".2.2 Recursively Defined Fractals Recursively defined fractals are the most well known form of fractals. and then some functions fn where n ∈ . and is a striking example of nature and fractal geometry coinciding. in the start of Barnsley’s "Superfractals" book he gives an example of an iterated function system which generates the Sierpi´ nski triangle.4 Chaotic Attractors While really a topic from chaos theory. In terms of points. Images of such fractals are most commonly in the complex plane. y i ) [5] Where i is one of the iteration steps. [4] An interesting example of this is the logistic map. 4 . chaotic attractors do show fractal behaviour and there are interesting and sometimes completely unexpected links between fractal geometry and chaos theory.3 Random Fractals Random fractals are generated by random processes like Brownian motion. k is some power 3 to raise the number to and k ∈ . [17] 2. Many fractals which originally were not given as iterated function systems can be translated into them. The next points are calculated by applying one of the functions to the last points: ( x i + 1 . which we will discuss later. The idea of an iterated function system is that one takes a space on which the functions will act. 17] 2. z is a complex number. Recursively defined fractals are of the form f :X →X where X is the space and f is the function that is being applied. for example 2 being the euclidean plane.1 Iterated Function Systems Iterated function systems were primarily introduced by the mathematician John E. The most famous example of an iterated function system is probably Barnsley’s fern. Symbolically this is: f : z → zk + c where f is the function. as here processes like exponentiation can produce interesting images and will not always trend away to infitity for obvious values. and σ is one of the functions fn which is chosen randomly.4.4.4. . The functions will usually have a probability of being chosen in the "chaos game" associated with them. [5] 2. these are usually polynomial equations in the complex plane that are repeated.4. for example. Random fractals are generated by stochastic processes rather than deterministic ones like the Mandelbrot set. y i + 1 ) = fσ ( x i . 16. Fractals of this kind typically show very little self similarity. [25. 2] Chaotic or strange attractors come from the solutions to differential equations that are very sensitive to initial conditions. with the addition of a constant. and are the kind that includes the Mandelbrot and Julia sets. which looks exactly as the name would imply. [25.

4] 3 The History of Fractal Geometry The term Fractal was originally coined by Benoit Mandelbrot in his original paper on fractal geometry [17]. [21. with his famous diagonal argument. it is the some of the objects that Cantor would imagine as part of his proofs that are most interesting when looking at set theory from the point of view of fractal geometry. When varying the constant r which is the factor which scales for reproduction rate. Although. there are many other chaotic phenomenon which will show fractal behaviour when they are plotted.interesting geometric features with the Mandelbrot set. and then eight. they have plenty of uses in the real world. While Cantor was considering the implications of set theory.1 Set Theory While the inventors of set theory would have no idea that their language would be used to describe fractal geometry (and indeed for many other applications. 3. 3. However. Repeat ad infinitum. above r > 3. [2. and that n is of the same infinite size as . Cantor himself did not imagine or discuss the ternary set for anything more than a passing remark. 4 5 5 . and you have the set. [21] The paper considered numbers which would be solutions to an equation such as: ai x n + ai −1 x n −1 + ai −2 x n −2 + · · · + a1 x + a0 = 0 Cantor shows that there are the same number of roots to an equation such as this as there are natural numbers. The ternary set is a more modern way of looking at Cantor’s idea. Cantor also went on to prove that there are more real numbers than natural numbers. Cantor spawned much of modern mathematics. this shows that the nature of fractals is more than theoretical. However as r increases. entitled "On a Characteristic Property of All Real Algebraic Numbers" and in this one paper. he would come up with one of the very first fractal objects: the cantor ternary set. and his contempories would prove that numbers such as π and e could never be the roots of an equation such as this. and so on. Now repeat for the two remaining pieces.1. This equation is the solution of differential equations about population growth dependent on rate of reproduction and other factors.57 there are a few isolated values which will give none chaotic behaviour. Set theory was founded in a single paper by Georg Cantor in 1874. with the invention of set theory and the ideas surrounding that. however the history of these objects starts a long time before Mandelbrot wrote that essay.57 the population will suddenly become chaotic4 . 6] 3. more an abstracted version of it for any repeated removal of a part of the interval. and is defined by: xn +1 = r xn (1 − xn ) where x is the population at some time. The logistic map is not an isolated example. at first an increasing r will result in a higher population as expected. [0. the population will oscillate between two levels.1]. For r > 3. and then four. and give the language in which all of the mathematics of fractals would be written. Once again. set theory is ubiquitous throughout mathematics and science) they would form some of the first objects that could be regarded as fractals. A graph of r against initial population will exhibit fractal behaviour. and remove the middle third.1 The Cantor Ternary Set The definition of the cantor ternary set 5 is very simple: take a unit interval.

as this implies there are no members of the set.2 The Weierstrass Function One of Cantors contemporaries and supporters was a mathematician called Karl Weierstrass.1] the length of the line segment is still the same! In my opinion this shows how counter intuitive geometries such as these can be. [26] 6 This is possible because it forms a geometric sequence with first term 1 2 and common ratio . In many ways this is a prototypical fractal. and yet it is easy to see that there are.3 The Koch Snowflake The Kock snowflake is a curve that was constructed by Helge von Koch is another one of the proto-fractals. calculus was being formalized into the rigorous study called analysis. The length that has been removed at each section is equal to n +1 where n is the 3 number of iterations. although it is closer to what we would recognise today as a fractal than the cantor set. Koch’s idea is very simple indeed. This means it is impossible to draw a tangent line at any point. Weierstrass originally published his function to challenge the notion that all functions that are continuous are differentiable. If we sum this between zero and infinity 6 then one will obtain the following: ∞ n =0 2n 3 n +1 = 1 3 1 1− 2 3 =1 This is interesting because it implies that even after removing an infinite number of thirds of the interval [0. and was constructed due to Koch’s dissatisfaction with Weierstrass’s function to show that not all functions are continuous. if one considers the length of the set that has been taken away. The Weierstrass function is another proto-fractal. Weierstrass was the mathematician who proved that π was a none algebraic number. the first kind which would help to establish fractal geometry as it’s own discipline. as any part of the set can be considered another enlarged and then translated. [23] 3. b is a positive odd integer and a b > 1 + π. While the revolution of set theory was occurring. then a surprising 2n result will be found. The function is: f (x ) = ∞ n =0 a n cos( b n π x ) 3 Where 0 < a < 1. as much like a fractal it has infinite detail when graphed.Figure 1: The Cantor Ternary Set Interestingly. In contrast to Weierstrass. 3 3 6 . 2 The function is nowhere differentiable. The set shows self similar behaviour like all fractals. [6] 3. and therefore meaning it is nowhere differentiable.

and as n tends to 3 3 n 4 infinity lim = ∞. 3 · 4k −1 triangles are added on. n →∞ 3 To calculate the area [1] inside the snowflake. Replace with another two lines to form an equilateral triangle with the part that has been removed. Therefore. • Repeat for all line segments. After each iteration the side length of the triangles that are added decreases the initial area is: 4 1 by 3 . If we let a be the side length of the equilateral triangle then 3 a2 . It it easy to see why this is the case. and the area added after each iteration. where k is the number of iterations. the area of triangles that we add on at iteration k will be equal to: 3 a 2 3 2 3 · 4 k −1 3 · 4 k −1 · = a 4 3k 4 9k 7 . such as an infinite perimeter enclosing a finite area.• Take an equilateral triangle. remove the middle third of each of the lines. • On the three faces of the triangle. Figure 2: The Koch snowflake for the first 6 iterations. one has to consider the initial area of the triangle. The Koch snowflake shares the typical features of a fractal. After each iteration the perimeter of the shape will have increased by 4 and therefore after n iterations the perimeter will be ( 4 )n . 3 triangles are added. After this. For the first iteration.

and indeed. . it is Figure 3: The first 6 iterations of the Sierpi´ nski triangle a family of similar fractals. meaning that it is all of the points not in the Fatou set which are in the complex plane.If we sum this from the 0 iteration (in this case just the first area) to the iteration n then we will obtain: 3 4 a2 1 + n k =1 3 · 4 k −1 9k If we now allow n → ∞ then the area of the koch snowflake will be obtained 7 . and removes a triangle from the centre such that there are three remaining triangles of the same size. The Fatou and Julia sets are ideas from dynamic systems and chaos research. Symbolically: f : → . As per usual with fractals. lim 3 4 a 2 n n →∞ 1+ k =1 3 · 4 k −1 9 k = 2 3 5 a2 This shows that somewhat counter intuitively that an finite area can be contained within an infinite perimeter.4 The Sierpi´ nski Triangle A few years after Koch had produced his snowflake. If one considers an equilateral triangle. however they are fractals themselves. 22] 3. it shows self similar behaviour. A Fatou set is a set such that some function f does not exceed some value and go off to infinity when repeatedly iterated in the complex plane 8 or does go off to infitity. including the Sierpi´ nski Carpet. Continue to infinity. 7 8 8 . 25. 17] 3. a similar fractal would be produced by a Polish mathematican called Wacław Sierpi´ nski. 1. this time with common ratio 4 . it being a copy of itself translated and enlarged. but has well defined propertises as it does for some complex number z . [7] The Julia set is the compliment of the Fatou set. First we must consider what the Fatou set is. so we will use it for our definition. 9 Essentially this means infinitely differentiable. and indeed. 5. fractals and chaos do go hand in hand. Sierpi´ nski would take them away. The function f must be holomorphic 9 and generally will be a polynomial. but all well known fractals are in the complex plane. The Sierpi´ nski triangle is another interesting fractal. [26. [24. Where Koch had added triangles. Another geometric sequence. 9 It does not have to be the complex plane. Now repeat this for the remaining triangles.5 The Julia and Fatou set The Julia and Fatou sets are the basis of the Mandelbrot set that we will later explore.

Mandelbrot was studying the so called parameter plane of the connected Julia sets. no one else has brought fractals to the attention of the world quite like Mandelbrot did. While working at IBM. his set. there are breaks in the graphs of the set. the set is whole. and c is a complex constant. the images that one will see of the Julia set are so called "Filled" Julia sets. all quadratic Julia sets can be represented as f : z → z 2 + c where z is a complex number. there is no point where there is a discontinuity in the set. These are when the interior of Julia sets are coloured to show their position with greater clarity to the reader. as it shows the section of the plane that will remain finite when iterated infinitely. and do not escape to infinity when iterated. for a quadratic f . That is. as we will now see. and while other mathematicians have made great contributions in the field. when a connected set is plotted. and the essay that started it all Benoit Mandelbrot is widely considered the father of Fractal Geometry by many. This is why a Filled Julia set is useful. 14. It is worth also considering the difference between a connected and unconnected Julia set. When the values of c are plotted that make the Julia sets connected. 15] 3. [7. The unconnected set is the opposite. That is. As iconic as it is. Mandelbrot was experimenting with the values of c such that when z = 0 + 0i is iterated infinitely it does not escape to infinity. you obtain the Mandelbrot set. Connected and unconnected have the meanings you would expect them to have. Symbolically this is: K ( f ) = { z ∈ : f (k ) ( z ) ∞ as k → ∞} The filled Julia set only exists for a f which is polynomial as for a polynomial f the Julia set will be the boundary of those that do go off to infinity. I would like to include a picture of it. Figure 4: The Mandelbrot Set 9 . and to use an analogy you could run your finger along the graph of the set without having to lift it from the page.6 Benoit Mandelbrot.Commonly. This will particularly come in useful for the Mandelbrot set.

he discusses the paradox that the length of coastlines will increase as the length of the measuring device decreases. in his paper "Les objets fractals. for hundreds or thousands of test points and computers are perfect for such calculations. 10 10 . Indeed. A universe where a knowledge of all of the initial states of all particles and exact knowledge of the laws of physics would allow you to calculate the evolution of the universe from that point onwards exactly. Chance and Dimension". as mentioned earlier there are surprising links between the Mandelbrot set and an idea from chaotic systems called the logistic map. In it. this is easy as it has been proved that once | z | 2 after some number of iterations.We will discuss the colouring and ways the computer plots the set and fractals in general later in the essay. for many years. 27. the point can be plotted appropriately. In order to colour the edge of the fractal one has to consider how quickly a value reached the escape value. similar developments in chaos theory were taking place. Mandelbrot first introduced his idea of a fractal in his paper "How Long Is the Coast of Britain? Statistical Self-Similarity and Fractional Dimension" published in 1967. and use them they did. Plotting images of fractals lend themselves very well to computers. Other fractals will have similar tests like this. black is the colour that is used for values which do not escape at all and gradually lighter colours imply that after fewer iterations the point escaped to infinity. Mandelbrot would finally get all of his ideas together in his book "The Fractal Geometry of Nature" and it was this book that brought fractals into the mathematical and scientific consciousness. fractals have been used all over. 24. It would be in 1975 that Mandelbrot would coin the term fractal for objects whos Hausdorff dimension was fractional. forme. and related to the measuring device being used. many believe that the idea of a clockwork universe 10 was brought down entirely.7 After Mandelbrot Once Mandelbrot had established the field of fractal geometry it would only be a matter of time before others would start to use his ideas for other uses. and the two ideas would feed into one another. [17. and objects called chaotic attractors quite commonly have fractal features. we instead must develop tests to show when the function is going to escape to infinity and when it will stay bounded. The simplest way of plotting fractals is an escape time algorithm. These uses are what the rest of the document will deal with. due to not being able to perform the necessary calculations to view the images they theorized about. and silenced critics who had believed that fractal geometry was without applications in the real world and was just an artifact of mathematics and good programming. Once a point has been determined to be either in the set or out of it. as what is required is simple calculations repeated hundreds or thousands of times. 4 Generating images of Fractals The generation of the images of fractals has been revolutionised by the advent of computers. and defines the dimension of the coastline in a way that allows it to be fractional. sharing similar roots mathematically. For the Mandelbrot set. From art to theoretical physics. 18] 3. the beautiful images of the objects that mathematicians were imagining were out of reach for them. Since we cannot actually iterate a function to infinity. then the point will always escape to infinity. Indeed. with white meaning that the point immediately passed the test for divergence. Usually. While the developments in fractal geometry were taking place. Between the ideas of chaos theory and fractal geometry. hasard et dimension" which translates to "Fractals: Form.

If this number is v then the formula will be: v = n − logP log2 | zn | Where n is the number of iterations. which is a great thing. and found in places that they would not have been expected to be in. These patterns are different dependent on where you go into Africa. the increasing availability of vast amounts of processing power to individuals has meant that fractals have moved from the province of merely academic discussion into something that anyone can play with after downloading a small program from the Internet. The Normalize Iteration Count algorithm is more aesthetically pleasing. as underneath they have a self-similarity on several scales. In order to fit with their customs they will build their villages into shapes which will follow fractal geometry. and plenty of resources there for people to find out about fractal geometry. means that almost anyone can play with these objects. for the Mandelbrot set this is 2. This increase in computing power has lead to a wide variety of fractal images being freely available on the Internet. The ideas used are beautiful. My own initial experiences with fractals were like this. One of the most interesting places that fractal geometry has been found is in aerial photographs of African villages. 27] 5 Fractals in Art Fractal artwork has to some extent. Once computing this measure the programmer can then assign a more flexible array of colours to the fractal. It has been suggested that this is the reason that Pollocks seemingly chaotic paintings still have a visual appeal to people. The algorithm works by assigning a number to each value of z after however many iterations are being calculated. and zn is the value of z after n iterations. which shows the unique attraction that humans have towards self-similar geometry. which can be quite unattractive. [11] Another interesting place that fractal geometry has been found is in the artwork of Jason Pollock. but it produces bands of colours. The escape time algorithm is quick for colouring. 24. [17. with c = x0 + y0 i . [8] Recently. After mathematically analyzing the patterns that are found in his paintings. 11 . which is a particularly amazing idea. P is the power that is used in the formula for the fractal. and seem to occur all over the content.An interesting optimisation that can be used for the Mandelbrot set is to substitute for z = x + y i and notice what happens when this is squared. and the widely available example implementations of fractals in various programming languages. and the villages they build from the air are also particularly beautiful. fractals have began to be used in other more interesting places. always been around. mathematicians found that they have features in common with fractal geometry. z = x + yi z 2 = x 2 − y 2 + 2x y i Now when calculating the next value of z in the iteration for the Mandelbrot set one can use these formulas. Of late though. much like in nature. as they are some of the most beautiful shapes found in nature. 25. and therefore produce a more aesthetically pleasing image as a result. The great number of free programs to visualise fractals beautifully. 2 2 xn +1 = Re( z 2 + c ) = xn − yn + x0 yn +1 = Im( z 2 + c ) = 2 xn yn + y0 Another more computationally challenging algorithm to colour a fractal is the Normalized Iteration Count algorithm. Humans have always been attracted to self-similar shapes.

However. It is easy to see how the weather shows self-similar behaviour.6 Fractals in Science and Nature Since nature is chaotic and self-similar. The random motion of a particle held in a fluid will form a fractal with statistical self similarity. the structure of galaxies and other objects can be considered fractal. Here I hope to only show a few of the brilliant examples of fractals in the real world. actual weather data has been analysed and shown to have fractal behaviour when looked at. this is due to the fact that small changes in the arrangement of the lattice structure of the solid can cause much larger changes to the overall structure. and therefore has not as of yet produced any majorly large results. Mandelbrot in his book "The Fractal Geometry of Nature" discusses the use of Fractal geometry in lattice physics. These fractals are just as beautiful as the other examples given so far. 9] 6. The equations that govern how the weather evolves over time are a series of difficult partial differential equations with chaotic solutions. This is a relatively new idea. Another interesting use of fractal geometry is fractal cosmology.2 Fractals in Theoretical Physics The very first type of fractal which physicists considered was that of Brownian motion. He argues that many of the structures found in already well understood crystals exhibit fractal behaviour and that analysing these properties might lead to a new understanding of how condensed matter acts. and so modeling the climate using fractal models certainly does not seem like an impossibility. Fractals scale invariance means they are useful in all sorts of places. and indeed. that is the temperatures at which they become magnetic. These shapes have been proved to be fractal in nature. one of them contains elements of the Mandelbrot set. Finally. Recent observations also suggest that the overall structure of the universe can be considered fractal in some respects. recently. These are not just theoretical predictions of what the weather will look like either. and the consequences of this are still uncertain.3 Fractals in Biological systems One of the most obvious examples of fractals within nature is Barnsleys fern. but the potential is there for it to produce some interesting ideas. Once again. which spreads out in a pattern that is obviously fractal in nature. it is an interesting pattern to be aware of. An interesting example of this is the growth of bacteria. fractal structures have been found when observing the magnetic phase-transitions of certain materials. and their properties studied. and how smaller effects can easily feed into larger ones and currents look similar on large scales as they do on small ones. as plenty of biological systems show fractal behaviour.1 Fractals in Weather analysis The weather is the classic example of a computationally hard. and while they seem to have little application to biologists. it was only a matter of time before fractal geometry began to be applied to situations in nature. Indeed. [17. [19] 6. complex chaotic problem. which is a very interesting and deep coincidence. By considering the mathematics of these transitions. that is the physics of how atoms align themselves within solids. such as weather analysis. both rainfall and clouds already have quite successful fractal models for their behaviour. 12 . While it is not considered a major topic within cosmology. mathematicians have began to consider how these problems could be looked at using fractal geometry. 6. although this is not an isolated example. two physicists Yang and Lee would produce another set of fractals.

URL: http://library. Attractors on wolfram mathworld. The lungs themselves can be visualised as a fractal A few other examples • Doctors are considering using fractals to examine heart traces. URL: http://www. as there is some evidence that examining the fractal nature of the heart rate allows information to be extracted that would not have otherwise been obtainable. Discover magazine on Jackson Pollocks Paintings with fractals.scholarpedia. which is a form of iterated function system.htm. In this essay I have barely touched the surface of the mathematics and uses of fractals. with remarkable properties that will allow them to continue to be some of the most important objects in a similar fashion to this. [25] 7 Conclusions Fractal geometry is still an emerging topic with much left to offer to mathematics and scientific knowledge in Long may these enigmatic and beautiful objects have the place they deserve. URL: http://www. Superfractals. I predict that as fractals gain more exposure within the scientific community. as these produce realistic back drops quickly and easily. [9] 6. and will continue to inspire both art and science for many years to come.physionet. Cantor Set. html.wikipedia.tue.thinkquest. they will continue to be used in ever more diverse models for physical area. Fractals are beautiful • Video games designers and film makers have used random fractals and iterated function systems to model landscapes. URL: http : / / discovermagazine. 13 . once again with self-similarity down to the small alveoli. URL: http://en. 2006. [10] • Geologists making models of water moving through soil are exploring using mathematical models for the path of water through the soil. When measuring these with smaller and smaller measuring devices the surface area of the alveoli increases dramatically.html. Fractals are now within the general consciousness of our culture. Conversations with Gaetan Bission regarding the Hausdorff dimension and Julia and Fatou Fractal heart beat analysis. Fractal Applications. Attractors on scholarpedia. the lungs can be considered fractal. URL: http://en. much like the coastlines which Mandelbrot discusses. Cambridge University Press. Michael Barnsley. References [ 1] [ 2] [ 3] [ 4] [ 5] [ 6] [ 7] [ 8] [ 9] [10] Area of the koch snowflake.wolfram. URL: http://ecademy. URL: http://mathworld. URL: http://www. Attractors.

[11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] Fractals in africa from TED talks. Wikipedia: Fractals. The Fractal Geometry of Nature. 1977. Wikipedia on the koch snowflake.wikipedia. URL: . Weierstrass Function. Hans african_fractals. URL: http://en. 1991. URL: URL: http://en. wolfram com / MandelbrotSet.html. Mandelbrot set on wolfram Wikibook on Fractals.a chance-of-fractals. newscientist . com / Self Similarity.cloudy .wikipedia. URL: http://en. [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] 14 . Benoit Mandelbrot. with a chance of Self-Similarity.tomorrows . com / HausdorffDimension.wikibooks. URL: http : / / mathworld . From MathWorld.wikipedia. URL: http://en. Penguin Books. NewScientist: Tomorrow’s weather: Cloudy.html. com / article / mg20427335 . URL: http : / / mathworld . Sierpinski Triangle. Julia Set Wolfram Hausdorff Dimension Wolfram Hausdorff Dimension. URL: http : / / www . Wikipeida on the Mandelbrot set. 600 . URL: http : / / mathworld . H. Freeman. Fractals Images of Chaos. URL: http://www. wolfram .wikipedia. URL: http://en. wolfram . URL: http://en. Julia Set.wikipedia. URL: http://en. W. URL: http://en. Set theory.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful