The Beauty of Fractals

My daughter is only 10 years old and she’s already convinced that she’ll be attending MIT. So I spend my spare time saving my pennies and watching the PBS science show Nova with her.


Last night a particularly interesting Nova was broadcast. It was about fractals. And it talked about how fractals play an important role in communications and could have significant impact on other fields such as medicine.


One part that I found particularly interesting was the discussion about how many years ago a ham radio operator whose landlord didn’t want a big antenna on the building resulted in the former gentleman building an antenna leveraging fractals. He found that by shaping the antenna in this way he could achieve the reach he required with a far smaller antenna. The show went on to mention that today fractal antennas are used in tens of millions of cell phones and other wireless communication devices and that, over the next 10 to 20 years, fractal technology will become even more broadly used because it's the only way to get cheaper costs and smaller size for our complex telecommunication demands.


In other fields such as health care, meanwhile, scientists have discovered that a healthy heartbeat has a distinctive fractal pattern. Identifying these signatures could in the future help cardiologists spot heart problems sooner, according to the show.

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This page contains a single entry by Paula Bernier published on December 15, 2010 2:31 PM.

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