poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘fractal

spending time out-of-doors

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Do you spend enough time out-of-doors?  Some researchers believe if you haven’t seen a ‘fractal’ today, you aren’t as well as you could be!

The word ‘fractal’ is relatively new.  My desk-side dictionaries, a Webster from 1979 and an Oxford from 1998 do not have this word.  According to the on-line Oxford Dictionary, a ‘fractal’ is a curve or geometrical figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole.  The word ‘fractal’ comes from the Latin fractus meaning ‘to break’.

In nature fractals occur frequently.  All fractals are self-similar – the ‘whole’ has the same shape as its parts.  For example, the tributary of a river has the same sinuous shape and properties of the larger river.  Also, the leaflet of a finely-divided fern has the same shape as the whole frond.

Bracken fern with fractal leaf patterns... the leaf is divided into leaflets... these are divided into sub-leaflets... and these are divided into lobes...

Benoit Mandelbrot is the mathematician credited with first describing fractal geometry.

Other fractals in nature include mountains, branching patterns of trees, the dendritic  form of root systems, patterns of vessels in the body, frost crystals and snowflakes, even the clustering of galaxies.  Just go on a walk outside to find lots of your own examples of fractals.

fractals in branches of Balsam Fir...

When we do not include nature in our lives, we miss these fractals.  If experiencing fractals in nature is necessary for human wellness, as some suspect, this is yet another reason for getting out-of-doors, examining the patterns we see in trees and other wild plants, taking in the scenery of landforms and horizons, and catching snowflakes on mittens.

fractals in tree branches and fractals in clouds




winter trees on morning sky

each a watershed, dendritic weave

brooks and rivers

backwaters and waterfalls


the trunk a river

not flowing to the sea

but into earth toward

unsalted water, deep in the ground


the roots the mirror of river

knowledge gathered

drawn, divided

to fine corpuscular thread



© Jane Tims 2005

Written by jane tims

November 20, 2011 at 9:26 am

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