I introduced my kids to fractals. We started out simply: drawing a triangle, locating the points, and repeating the pattern as far as we could on a sheet of paper. We drew a window and made a fractal by repeating the window smaller and smaller in the upper left quadrants.
Fractals are repeating patterns. They are found in nature in objects like bird feathers, tree branches, our lungs, ferns, and nautilus shells. They are found in music, of course, as music is mathematics we can hear and fractals are mathematical concepts. Until recently, the idea of fractal mathematics was thought to be too abstract to even think about too much. It wasn’t until Mandelbrot approached the subject and broke it all down that the world was able to embrace this seemingly complex study and view it as simply many small parts repeating and completing the whole. Fractal geometry is all around us and it is beautiful.
Interestingly enough, it appears that the Ancients may have had a better grasp of the fractal nature of life than what we did until Mandelbrot’s “discovery”. Hercules fought the Hydra, a mythical beast whose heads would split into two every time one was cut off. A legend about the inventor of chess portrays him creating this new game for a king and the king enjoying it so much he rewards the inventor with anything he wants. He chooses a grain of rice (or wheat, depending on the version) to be placed on the first square of the chess board, two grains on the next, four on the next, and eight on the next square, and so on and so forth, until the quantity and weight of the grains had become too large to measure. This exponential growth is a fractal concept.
There is quite an interesting video on TED, a talk by Ron Eglash on ‘The fractals at the heart of African designs’. It’s a short 16 or so minutes long and well worth your viewing time. He explains fractals much better than I just have (I’m not a mathematician!) and goes on to show photos and diagrams of fractals at play in African villages and artwork.
So with all this amazing fractal art around us, why not display some functional fractals in your own home? Here are just a few options available. Click through to the original pins that will take you to vendors selling these goods. These are not sponsored pins.
Fractal Foundation Online Course is an excellent website to teach you more about fractals. I highly recommend a visit to explore more because math is fun and beautiful!
This selection of functional fractal art and home goods is only scratching the surface of what’s available. Do you have any ideas to add to this list?