In mathematics, a fractal is a subset of a Euclidean space for which the fractal dimension strictly exceeds the topological dimension. Fractals appear the same at different levels, as illustrated in successive magnifications of the Mandelbrot set; because of this, fractals are encountered ubiquitously in nature. Fractals exhibit similar patterns at increasingly small scales called self similarity, also known as expanding symmetry or unfolding symmetry; if this replication is exactly the same at every scale, as in the Menger sponge, it is called affine selfsimilar. Fractal geometry lies within the mathematical branch of topology.
One way that fractals are different from finite geometric figures is the way in which they scale. Doubling the edge lengths of a polygon multiplies its area by four, which is two (the ratio of the new to the old side length) raised to the power of two (the dimension of the space the polygon resides in). Likewise, if the radius of a sphere is doubled, its volume scales by eight, which is two (the ratio of the new to the old radius) to the power of three (the dimension that the sphere resides in). However, if a fractal's onedimensional lengths are all doubled, the spatial content of the fractal scales by a power that is not necessarily an integer.
This power is called the fractal dimension of the fractal, and it usually exceeds the fractal's topological dimension.Analytically, fractals are usually nowhere differentiable. An infinite fractal curve can be conceived of as winding through space differently from an ordinary line – although it is still 1dimensional, its fractal dimension indicates that it also resembles a surface.
Starting in the 17th century with notions of recursion, fractals have moved through increasingly rigorous mathematical treatment of the concept to the study of continuous but not differentiable functions in the 19th century by the seminal work of Bernard Bolzano, Bernhard Riemann, and Karl Weierstrass, and on to the coining of the word in the 20th century with a subsequent burgeoning of interest in fractals and computerbased modelling in the 20th century. The term "fractal" was first used by mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot in 1975. Mandelbrot based it on the Latin frāctus]], meaning "broken" or "fractured", and used it to extend the concept of theoretical fractional dimensions to geometric patterns in nature.
There is some disagreement among mathematicians about how the concept of a fractal should be formally defined. Mandelbrot himself summarized it as "beautiful, damn hard, increasingly useful. That's fractals." More formally, in 1982 Mandelbrot stated that "A fractal is by definition a set for which the Hausdorff–Besicovitch dimension strictly exceeds the topological dimension."Mandelbrot, B. B.: The Fractal Geometry of Nature. W. H. Freeman and Company, New York (1982); p. 15. Later, seeing this as too restrictive, he simplified and expanded the definition to: "A fractal is a shape made of parts similar to the whole in some way."
Still later, Mandelbrot settled on this use of the language: "...to use fractal without a pedantic definition, to use fractal dimension as a generic term applicable to all the variants".The consensus is that theoretical fractals are infinitely selfsimilar, iteration, and detailed mathematical constructs having fractal dimensions, of which many examples have been formulated and studied in great depth.
Fractals are not limited to geometric patterns, but can also describe processes in time. Fractal patterns with various degrees of selfsimilarity have been rendered or studied in images, structures and sounds and found in nature, technology, art, architectureOstwald, Michael J., and Vaughan, Josephine (2016) The Fractal Dimension of Architecture. Birhauser, Basel. . and law. Fractals are of particular relevance in the field of chaos theory, since the graphs of most chaotic processes are fractals.
The feature of "selfsimilarity", for instance, is easily understood by analogy to zooming in with a lens or other device that zooms in on digital images to uncover finer, previously invisible, new structure. If this is done on fractals, however, no new detail appears; nothing changes and the same pattern repeats over and over, or for some fractals, nearly the same pattern reappears over and over. Selfsimilarity itself is not necessarily counterintuitive (e.g., people have pondered selfsimilarity informally such as in the infinite regress in parallel mirrors or the homunculus, the little man inside the head of the little man inside the head ...). The difference for fractals is that the pattern reproduced must be detailed.
This idea of being detailed relates to another feature that can be understood without mathematical background: Having a fractal dimension greater than its topological dimension, for instance, refers to how a fractal scales compared to how geometric shapes are usually perceived. A regular line, for instance, is conventionally understood to be onedimensional; if such a curve is reptiled into pieces each 1/3 the length of the original, there are always three equal pieces. A solid square is understood to be twodimensional; if such a figure is reptiled pieces each scaled down by a factor of 1/3 in both dimensions, there are a total of 3^{2} = 9 pieces. We see that for ordinary selfsimilar objects, being ndimensional means that when it is reptiled into pieces each scaled down by a scalefactor of 1/ r, there are a total of r^{ n} pieces. Now, consider the Koch curve. It can be reptiled into four subcopies, each scaled down by a scalefactor of 1/3. So, strictly by analogy, we can consider the "dimension" of the Koch curve as being the unique real number D that satisfies 3^{ D} = 4, which by no means is an integer! This number is what mathematicians call the fractal dimension of the Koch curve. The fact that the Koch curve has a noninteger fractal dimension is what makes it a fractal.
This also leads to understanding a third feature, that fractals as mathematical equations are "nowhere differentiable". In a concrete sense, this means fractals cannot be measured in traditional ways. To elaborate, in trying to find the length of a wavy nonfractal curve, one could find straight segments of some measuring tool small enough to lay end to end over the waves, where the pieces could get small enough to be considered to conform to the curve in the normal manner of measuring with a tape measure. But in measuring an infinitely "wiggly" fractal curve such as the Koch snowflake, one would never find a small enough straight segment to conform to the curve, because the jagged pattern would always reappear, at arbitrarily small scales, essentially pulling a little more of the tape measure into the total length measured each time one attempted to fit it tighter and tighter to the curve. The result is that one must need infinite tape to perfectly cover the entire curve, i.e. the snowflake has infinite perimeter.
One of the next milestones came in 1904, when Helge von Koch, extending ideas of Poincaré and dissatisfied with Weierstrass's abstract and analytic definition, gave a more geometric definition including handdrawn images of a similar function, which is now called the Koch snowflake. Another milestone came a decade later in 1915, when Wacław Sierpiński constructed his famous triangle then, one year later, his carpet. By 1918, two French mathematicians, Pierre Fatou and Gaston Julia, though working independently, arrived essentially simultaneously at results describing what are now seen as fractal behaviour associated with mapping complex numbers and iterative functions and leading to further ideas about attractors and repellors (i.e., points that attract or repel other points), which have become very important in the study of fractals. Very shortly after that work was submitted, by March 1918, Felix Hausdorff expanded the definition of "dimension", significantly for the evolution of the definition of fractals, to allow for sets to have noninteger dimensions. The idea of selfsimilar curves was taken further by Paul Lévy, who, in his 1938 paper Plane or Space Curves and Surfaces Consisting of Parts Similar to the Whole described a new fractal curve, the Lévy C curve.
Different researchers have postulated that without the aid of modern computer graphics, early investigators were limited to what they could depict in manual drawings, so lacked the means to visualize the beauty and appreciate some of the implications of many of the patterns they had discovered (the Julia set, for instance, could only be visualized through a few iterations as very simple drawings).
That changed, however, in the 1960s, when Benoit Mandelbrot started writing about selfsimilarity in papers such as How Long Is the Coast of Britain? Statistical SelfSimilarity and Fractional Dimension, which built on earlier work by Lewis Fry Richardson. In 1975 Mandelbrot solidified hundreds of years of thought and mathematical development in coining the word "fractal" and illustrated his mathematical definition with striking computerconstructed visualizations. These images, such as of his canonical Mandelbrot set, captured the popular imagination; many of them were based on recursion, leading to the popular meaning of the term "fractal".In 1980, Loren Carpenter gave a presentation at the SIGGRAPH where he introduced his software for generating and rendering fractally generated landscapes.kottke.org. 2009. Vol Libre, an amazing CG film from 1980. online Available at: http://kottke.org/09/07/vollibreanamazingcgfilmfrom1980
One point agreed on is that fractal patterns are characterized by fractal dimensions, but whereas these numbers quantify complexity (i.e., changing detail with changing scale), they neither uniquely describe nor specify details of how to construct particular fractal patterns. In 1975 when Mandelbrot coined the word "fractal", he did so to denote an object whose Hausdorff–Besicovitch dimension is greater than its topological dimension. However, this requirement is not met by spacefilling curves such as the Hilbert curve.
Because of the trouble involved in finding one definition for fractals, some argue that fractals should not be strictly defined at all. According to Falconer, fractals should, in addition to being nowhere differentiable and able to have a fractal dimension, be only generally characterized by a of the following features;
As a group, these criteria form guidelines for excluding certain cases, such as those that may be selfsimilar without having other typically fractal features. A straight line, for instance, is selfsimilar but not fractal because it lacks detail, is easily described in Euclidean language, has the same Hausdorff dimension as topological dimension, and is fully defined without a need for recursion.
Modeled fractals may be sounds, digital images, electrochemical patterns, , etc. Fractal patterns have been reconstructed in physical 3dimensional space and virtually, often called "in silico" modeling. Models of fractals are generally created using fractalgenerating software that implements techniques such as those outlined above. As one illustration, trees, ferns, cells of the nervous system, blood and lung vasculature,
and other branching patterns in nature can be modeled on a computer by using recursive and Lsystems techniques. The recursive nature of some patterns is obvious in certain examples—a branch from a tree or a frond from a fern is a miniature replica of the whole: not identical, but similar in nature. Similarly, random fractals have been used to describe/create many highly irregular realworld objects. A limitation of modeling fractals is that resemblance of a fractal model to a natural phenomenon does not prove that the phenomenon being modeled is formed by a process similar to the modeling algorithms.
Decalcomania, a technique used by artists such as Max Ernst, can produce fractallike patterns.Frame, Michael; and Mandelbrot, Benoît B.; A Panorama of Fractals and Their Uses It involves pressing paint between two surfaces and pulling them apart.
Cyberneticist Ron Eglash has suggested that fractal geometry and mathematics are prevalent in African art, games, divination, trade, and architecture. Circular houses appear in circles of circles, rectangular houses in rectangles of rectangles, and so on. Such scaling patterns can also be found in African textiles, sculpture, and even cornrow hairstyles.Nelson, Bryn; Sophisticated Mathematics Behind African Village Designs Fractal patterns use repetition on large, small scale, San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, February 23, 2009 Hokky Situngkir also suggested the similar properties in Indonesian traditional art, batik, and ornaments found in traditional houses.Situngkir, Hokky; Dahlan, Rolan (2009). Fisika batik: implementasi kreatif melalui sifat fraktal pada batik secara komputasional. Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka Utama.
Ethnomathematician Ron Eglash has discussed the planned layout of Benin city using fractals as the basis, not only in the city itself and the villages but even in the rooms of houses. He commented that "When Europeans first came to Africa, they considered the architecture very disorganised and thus primitive. It never occurred to them that the Africans might have been using a form of mathematics that they hadn’t even discovered yet." Koutonin, Mawuna (18 March 2016). "Story of cities #5: Benin City, the mighty medieval capital now lost without trace". Retrieved 2 April 2018.
In a 1996 interview with Michael Silverblatt, David Foster Wallace admitted that the structure of the first draft of Infinite Jest he gave to his editor Michael Pietsch was inspired by fractals, specifically the Sierpinski triangle (a.k.a. Sierpinski gasket), but that the edited novel is "more like a lopsided Sierpinsky Gasket".

