You have almost certainly seen computer-generated fractals—beautiful, trippy images in which colourful, intricate structures repeat ad infinitum as you fall ever further down the rabbit hole. Formally speaking, fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. But, in an echo of their geometry, fractals can help us better understand the world on many levels.

Let’s start with the familiar: fractals in nature. “They are all around us—in trees, mountain ranges, river deltas, and so on,” says Dave Feldman at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. Such ubiquity makes sense because of the way fractals are made: “a simple iterative process—repeated folding or branching—can produce fractals,” he says.

Read more…