Picture of the Week—A Fractal in 3-D

20110520102311i8-10-BIG.jpg
Feedloader (Clickability)

There is something we find beautiful about fractals, those curious geometric structures with repeating shapes that seem to go on for infinity (see video below). Perhaps it is because these mathematical oddities remind us of nature; river networks, ferns and Romanesco broccoli are all examples of natural fractals.

The most famous fractal is probably the Mandelbrot set, named for Benoît Mandelbrot, the French-American mathematician who coined the term "fractal" in 1975. The Mandelbrot set is a 2-dimensional object created through a mathematical equation. Mathematicians had first pondered how to turn it into a 3-dimensional object, a "Mandelbulb," more than 20 years ago, but they didn't figure out how to do it until recently. The result is above. Quite pretty, don't you think?

(Hat tip: Bad Astronomy)