What is this fractal thing?

It's mathematics, it's geometric shapes, it's a process in time, it's all these things and more. It defies strict definition. It's embedded in chaos theory. It occurs in nature, technology, art, architecture and more.

animated fractal gif Fractals have the distinctive feature of a repeating geometry, shape or form with structure which self-similarly replicates at a smaller scale, to infinity and infinitesimally. They are found everywhere in nature, from Romanesco broccoli to ferns, the branches of a snow flake, the coil of a snail shell or the pattern of a hard frost on glass and even at larger scales such as salt flats, mountains, coastlines and clouds. The shapes of trees and mountains are self-similar, such that a branch looks like a small tree and a rocky outcrop like a small mountain.

Trees near Helmsley
'Trees, near Helmsley' - from the exhibition, 'Recurring Dreams', 2016.

Medical Benefits

In the 1980s, architects found that patients recovered more quickly from surgery when given hospital rooms with windows looking out on nature. Other studies since then have demonstrated that just looking at pictures of natural scenes can change the way a person’s autonomic nervous system responds to stress.

Research has indicated that viewing a specific type of fractal art has a positive effect on the mind. Using skin conductance and electro-encephalography has revealed that exposure to these fractals can reduce our stress levels by as much as 60%. The reduction is thought to be triggered by a physiological resonance that occurs when the fractal structure of the eye matches that of the fractal image being viewed.

Research in the fields of biophilia and 'Attention Restoration Theory' is ongoing but there are plenty of articles on the web which tend to point to the same thing. Whether they be natural or created, looking at fractal form is good for you!

Hrere are some articles worth reading:
Why Fractals Are Soothing
Fractals and Health
Fun with Fractals?
Fractal Patterns in Nature and Art Are Aesthetically Pleasing and Stress-Reducing


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