Science News in Brief
Conservationists of the Amphibian Survival Alliance have started a new push to protect the world’s amphibians from extinction. a new initiative aimed at safeguarding the world’s amphibians from extinction. Currently, almost a third of amphibians are in danger of extinction, mainly due to habitat destruction and the fungal infection: chytridiomycosis, or chytrid for short.
Sad Superstition: In many parts of Panama the Panama Golden Frog is considered a good luck charm and people collect it from the wild to put in their homes. For this reason, amongst others, it is an endagered species.
The Indian Space Agency has declared that all communication with the only Indian satellite orbiting the Moon have been lost, The Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft lost radio contact on Saturday.
Space Club Freshmen: Iran is the last country to have managed to put a sattelite into orbit. It did so on Feb. 2, 2009.
The detailed chemical structure of a single molecule has been imaged for the first time. Although the physical shape of a carbon nanotube has been outlined in the past, this is the first time chemical bonds have shown up in the image.
Famous Firsts: The first known photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1825 by the heliograph process.
The Shoebill, or Balaeniceps rex, is a large stork-like bird. Its name is based on its huge shoe-shaped bill which it uses to hunt fish and frogs in the muddy waters of Africa.
Feature Story: Fractals
A fractal is an object or quantity that displays self-similarity, in a somewhat technical sense, on all scales. The object need not exhibit exactly the same structure at all scales, but the same “type” of structures must appear on all scales. A plot of the quantity on a log-log graph versus scale then gives a straight line, whose slope is said to be the fractal dimension. The prototypical example for a fractal is the length of a coastline measured with different length rulers. The shorter the ruler, the longer the length measured, a paradox known as the coastline paradox.
That is the definition of a fractal according to Wolfram MathWorld. Simply put, a fractal is a irregular geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which look like the original image. So, as you zoom in on the picture, you continue to see the same image, even though it is many times smaller. This property of fractals is known as self similarity.
There are some rules as to how a fractal can be defined. A fractal must:
- Have a fine structure on many scales.
- Be too irregular to define in simple Euclidean geometric terms (triangles, squares, cones, etc).
- Is self similar.
- Can be defined by a simple recursive (defined in terms of itself) function
Some famous fractals include the Mandelbrot function (above [Benoit Mandelbrot is seen as the father of fractal geometry]), the Koch snowflake, the Sierpinski triangle (and square), and the Cantor sets.
Fractals are more than pretty images that can be defined mathematically. They also have profound implications in many other scientific fields including biology, engineering, medicine, and geography. For example clouds, crystals, snowflakes, mountain ranges, lightning, river networks, and various plants and flowers all follow elements of fractal geometry. Trekkies rejoice, fractal geometry was used to create much of the topography seen on planets in the series. Mountains were created by taking a pyramid and layering it with triangles of different sizes.Trees and ferns have fractal geometry: a branch on a tree resembles a tree and a fern frond resembles a full fern frond. Also, fractal geometry may also determine when a blood vessel branches out into a fork and so on and so on.
The Cosmic Perspective
Discoveries in the field of fractal geometry are revolutionizing the field of mathematics and our view of how nature functions. These discoveries reveal a beautiful, hidden order which emerges from what seems to be chaos. We can apply this new research in many fields to better understand the world around us and create new technologies. As we look closer at everything, one can see patterns crop up out of nothingness. These patterns, be they the simple symmetry of our circadian rhythms or something far grander like the separation of blood vessels in the body, reveal to us a factor which unites us all.