Fractals in Nature


Fractals are only a recent discovery although they’ve been with us for such a long time.  Benoit Mandelbrot discovered fractals in 1975 and described them as shapes that are “self similar”.  The shape of a fractal is similar regardless of the magnification.  To create a fractal, you start with a simple shape and duplicate it, again and again and again.   Think of a fern – each frond is a miniature replica of the whole.  It’s not identical, but it’s similar in nature.  Here is six of the best fractals you’ll find in nature.

1.  Lightning

Lightning fractal

Lightning fractal ©Photographer: Goran Stojanovic | Agency: Dreamstime.com

In nature, we see fractals all around us.  Most of the fractals in nature are not infinite.  They display self-similar structure over a smaller and finite scale (otherwise we’d have supersized, never ending cauliflowers !!).  Natural fractals include clouds, snowflakes, blood vessels, river networks and coastlines.

2.  Nautilus Shell

Aren’t these amazing?  The nautilus shell is a fantastic example of sacred geometry.

3.  Leaves and veins

The exciting thing about fractals is that you never get to the end.  Zoom in and you’ll see a similar pattern.  Zoom again and you’ll just get more detail, and more, and more.

4. Romanesco (cabbage cousin)

Romanesco fractal

Romanesco fractal (wikipedia) and Flickr: docman

The photographer (Docman) who shot this photo didn’t actually cook and eat it.  He did a whole series of photos about the Romanesco, including its decay.

5.  Peacock feathers

Feathers are great examples of fractals.  (PS – no it’s not an albino peacock).  For more white peacock pictures and info, check out my post “The Peacock” here.

6.  Mountain Ranges

Mountain Range Fractal

Mountain Range Fractal (www.ces.clemson.edu/semaps/tn/gsmt-a.jpg)

Mountain ranges and river systems create fabulous fractals as they branch off to other systems.

If you’d like to check out some more info, images or fractal generating programs have a look at Spanky Fractal Database.  Enjoy!