7.20.2007

Nature's Fractals

At right, feast your eyes on Brassica oleracea, a.k.a. fractal broccoli. Complex fractal, or self-similiar, patterns like this are ubiquitous in nature—in leaf veins, seashells, snowflakes, even blood vessels in the lung.

So what does self-similarity mean? As John Walker, the photographer of the image at right, explains:
The self-similarity of most of these patterns is defined only in a statistical sense: while the general "roughness" is about the same at different scales, you can't extract a segment, blow it up, and find a larger scale segment which it matches precisely.

However, some of the most pleasing patterns in geometric art exhibit exact or almost exact self-similarity. These are patterns which are composed of smaller copies of themselves ad infinitum, or at least until some limit where the similarity breaks down due to the granularity of the underlying material.
That fractal broccoli is one of those rare examples of "almost exact" self-similarity. Pretty. Damn. Cool.

Check out Walker's site. He gives lots of graphs and photos and math stuffs, but cutest of all was his closing recipe:
It's excellent raw, enhancing both the appearance and taste of an assiette de crudités. It's crunchier than cauliflower and not as bland. It has a nutty taste (and looks kind of nutty too until you get used to it!) and doesn't have the chalky edge which some people dislike in broccoli. Any dip that's good with cauliflower and broccoli will go fine with Romanesco, but be sure to try it by itself—you may decide to forgo the dip. It would be absolutely ideal to serve raw Romanesco on a platter with an image of the Mandelbrot set!


(Hat tip: Dark Roasted Blend)

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