beauty in nature

Koch Snowflake: Finite area, Infinite perimeter.

The Koch Snowflake has finite area but infinite perimeter… yeah that happens with fractals. This abstract curve requires an infinite process (depicted in the gif) to construct and is an example of a fractal–a mathematical set (usually a curve or geometric figure) which exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale. (More about fractals here

But How? It seems clear that the area would be finite since the figure encloses a finite amount of space. To grasp why the Koch Snowflake has infinite perimeter, notice how as the iterations progress, the edges become more and more intricate. Now imagine trying to draw the edges with a pen. Since the construction of the snowflake continues indefinitely, the edges become infinitely intricate and you could never finish detailing these intricacies with your pen (that is the intuitive argument at least. I’ll leave the precise calculations up to you).

Fractals may seem so abstract and impractical but they actually have many useful real-world applications. For example, Benoit Mandelbrot (considered the “father of fractals”) found that stock market prices could be modeled with a factual curve. Check the wiki page for a long and diverse list of applications.

Fractal geometry may seem more abstract than traditional geometry but Mandelbrot argues that fractals are “the geometry of nature”. Objects in nature have random irregularities and are seemingly infinite in their intricacies. Attempting to incorporate this in drawings or animations is extremely difficult. Movie special effects and CGI often use fractals to make objects appear more natural looking. Since fractals can be made with mathematical formulae they are easy to generate with a computer. The first Star Wars movies were renowned for their special effects and were some of the first to use fractals to generate life-like explosions and landscapes of other worlds.

“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson


Blossom 8073 by Krzysztof Baranowski
Via Flickr:
against the setting sun.