Patterns in Nature – Fractals

The human mind responds to symmetric designs though we respond to natural forms like rugged mountains, a dense canopy or the skeletal structure of a dried leaf as well.

Photo Credit : Tasneem Khan

There is a simple, hidden logic we intuitively pick up that connects us with the hypnotic realm of fractals.

Natural forms are the outcome of processes – erosion and decay, growth, clustering, energy efficiency and so on. When the factors are random, the chances of a symmetric design are incredibly small, so, many structures like a branching tree, budding coral polyps or lichens on a rock look disorderly at first glance.

Lichens Taiga – intriguing! The patchy, encrusting forms on the barks of trees and exposed rock surfaces is also lichen with both, fungus and algal cells. Its growth and exposure to the elements makes for fractal patterns. Photo courtesy: Tasneem Khan


Self-similarity is a common trait across the wide world of fractal patterns, but calling it ‘scaled up similarity’ would be an understatement. If it was that simple, a line could also be called a fractal since it is similar at all scales. The fine structure in small scales within a form is what it is, and if you continue to zoom in, you will find that fine structure.

When you start to look at the world in this manner, constantly zooming in and out – the perspectives available to you open portals into an infinite multiverse.

Spaced out! The cosmos

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In a temperate forest, Ground lichens often appear like clumps of white fluff among herbs, berries and mosses. At eye level, it reveals an incredible network-like three-dimensional maze of branching at the most minute scale.

“Stars crowd together into galaxies, galaxies assemble into clusters, and clusters amass to form superclusters…” we continue to find matter clustering at larger and larger scales. Attempts are being made to describe the arrangement of our universe through the geometric perspective- Fractal geometry.

Snowflakes are known for their unique patterns. The ice crystals that make up snowflakes seem patterned because they reflect the internal order of the water molecules as they arrange themselves in space. This crystallization results in a six-sided snowflake. Snowflakes are a classic example of fractals in general, showcasing two distinct qualities – branching and symmetry.


Edited by Pooja Gupta | Additional Editing by Dominic D’Cruz