Posted by: khuang01 | November 25, 2008

Fractals in Nature

We all know that fractals can do some amazing things, but I was amazed the other day by this picture:

A REAL Cauliflower, courtesy Wikipedia

A REAL plant (it's edible). A cross between broccoli and cauliflower, courtesy Wikipedia

Of course everyone knows about the fractal nature of snowflakes, but this image really struck me in it’s highly fractal nature.

Another great example is shown below:

A Fern, from Miquel.com

A fern, from Miquel.com

But in addition to cool pictures like these, the concept of fractals in nature is actually a very powerful modeling tool.  Blood vessels, coastlines, and mountain formations, have all been successfully modeled using fractals/iterative processes.

Even more impressive is the picture below:

A lightning strike frozen in time, courtesy Miquel.com

An electron discharge frozen in time, courtesy Miquel.com

This object is a lucite cylinder that scientists charged up on one end and then let discharge through the cylinder.  It represents a class of figures known as Lichtenberg Figures that are the characteristic shape that lightning leaves after striking wood, rocks, and other objects.

So yes, fractals are not very visually stunning, but are surprisingly prevalent in nature in many intricate ways.

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