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Forest of fractals
Swirls of gold in repeating patternThere was once a certain cereal box that showed a bear holding a cereal box, on which appeared the same bear holding the same cereal box. It mesmerized us Why Filers in the grocery aisle. In a perfect world, some diligent artist would have painted ever-smaller bears and boxes with ever-smaller paintbrushes.

ThatÂ’s the mind-bending idea behind fractals, mathematical patterns that repeat themselves on smaller and smaller scales. Fractals can be found in ferns, clouds and coastlines. This swirling honeycomb, a computer- generated image based on a formula, represents another.

The mathematical recipe behind it is one of a cluster of formulas known as the Mandelbrot set, named for mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, who introduced the equations in 1975.

Image courtesy Frances Griffin.

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