Friday, May 22, 2009

formulaic essence

I was watching Nova on PBS Tuesday night about ‘the examination of fractal geometry’.  It was already part way through when it captured my attention.  It was a very interesting show which seemed to me to be about describing nature in terms of mathematics.  Mathematics before fractal theory was all about straight lines which don’t really occur in nature.  

Everything in nature is rough...

the edges of a leaf, 

the limbs of a tree, 

the curve of a shell, 

the outline of a cloud, 

the silhouette of a mountain, 

the path of a river, 

even a healthy heartbeat is somewhat irregular.  

It also talked about how nature uses the same forms over and over again, this fractal geometry...

the river as it flows to the sea, the structure of a tree and branches, the human circulatory system; 

the spiral of a solar system, the spiral of a sea shell and the unfolding of a fern frond; 

the veining of a leaf, the wing of a grasshopper and the cracks in dried mud; 

the spots on a giraffe and the crystallization of minerals in the cracks of rock; 

the thorns on a rose and the spines of a blowfish; 

frost patterns and palm leaves.  

Fractal geometry has advanced our scientific knowledge and we all benefit from that but it just struck me that they were missing some vital part.  That no matter how precise they got in their formula, it would not convey the beauty.


  1. No, it wouldn't! And no matter how hard we try, there will always be some important parts of nature and all things existing that will be left out.

    And maybe that is just for the better.

  2. Love the Photo ... I have lots of ferns in my back yard.

  3. Welcome Minka. I couldn't agree more.

    JC, thanks for the visit. It is a very cool pic. I wish I could take credit for it but I cannot. I got it off Wikipedia. I googled public domain images. I'm not sure what the etiquette is, should I put a line under it?

  4. Pythagorus was right when he decided there are perfected forms underneath perceived reality. Fractal geometry has brought us closer to those forms by showing us how nothing in our reality can match what we can imagine; the perfect circle, square, triangle, or a straight line, for that matter.

    Very cool.


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