Math, Fractals, and Nature’s Code

Back in the day when I taught elementary school science and computers, I decided to teach a unit on Fractals.  Mind you, this was a private school, so I was free to choose curriculum.  What I discovered, as did the students, was crystal clear about the true nature of reality: we live in a fractal world. Or, perhaps better said, the code of nature is fractals.

So, what is a fractal?

Let’s back up.  I remember in high school learning about the Fibonacci series which basically works like this:  Start with 1 and it to itself, 1 +1 = 2, then add result to the previous number so it becomes a pattern like this:  1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13… I remember learning how seashells and sunflowers patterned themselves with Fibonacci.  Curious, I wondered if all of nature was organized like this. Simple answer: It’s not.  Mountains, tree branches, crystals, weather patterns, in fact, just about everything in Nature do not follow any such pattern. In fact Nature rarely is so “organized” according to the logic of math.

Fast forward to the 1980s (yeah, I went to high school in the 70s) and along comes Benoit Mandelbrot who thought of Nature as certainly having a code, or as he described it with “a rough geometry.”  So he set out to prove his notion in what became known as the Mandelbrot series and his description as “fractals.”  Coupled with computers that could compute the complex math and generate visual images, fractals made their debut.  They’ve proven themselves so much like nature in form and design, computer games have adopted fractals to generate their landscapes.  In fact the incredible simulations we see in games today wouldn’t be possible without fractals.

Once you understand how to generate fractals, and there’s lots of great FREE software to  help, you’ll see fractals in everything.

Here’s a short list:

So it seems we now understand the code of Nature.  Now, if we could understand “time.”  Next blog…