Posted by: Tony Shannon | March 8, 2010

What is frectal

Over the last few years I have been learning a lot and wanted to start put some of it in writing.

The world we live in is a fascinating place and this is a fascinating time to be alive, to see so much happening in the world around us. My interests are reasonably varied, from healthcare to information technology to management and across those fields I have noted that as complex as they are and as complex as the world is,  that simple patterns are all around.

With that in mind I feel there are a number of interesting thoughts worth recording, sharing.

The picture on the top of the page is of a fossil, a spiral shape, known as an ammonite fossil.  To me it symbolises quite a few things.

Firstly as its a very old thing, it reminds me that we are only on this planet for a very very tiny length of time in the grand scheme of things. The world has changed in unfathomable ways since it began. Change has been, is now and forever will be, all around is.

Secondly, the shell symbolises (for me at least) the spiral of change, at many speeds- from the Theory of Evolution  that Darwin explained in his ”Origin of the Species”, to the more modern field of Rapid Application Development and the spiral model of software engineering.

Thirdly although the fossil is a complex structure in its own right, its made up from a very simple pattern.
As this spiral shell structure with its simple rules make up a complex structure, so it can be understood as a ”fractal“.  A “fractal” can be a very beautiful thing and are seen all over the place, like the spiral fossil above, a fern or a  snowflake and are all made from very simple and recurring patterns.
Of interest, the familiar recursive design of this kind of ammonite shell above is based on is linked to the fibonacci sequence of numbers (0,1,2,3,5…) that appear in many places around us.
Another dimension to fractals is that they exhibit similar characteristics, even if viewed at differing levels of scale.. a well quoted example of which is the coastline challenge, as in the 1967 “How Long is the Coast of Britain” paper ?

Fractals are closely linked with the science of Complex Systems which is a very useful multidisciplinary body of knowledge that I believe will grow in importance in many disciplines, from Healthcare, to Information Technology to Management fields and beyond.

Mix the name fractal with the word freckle and I came to frectal, hence “what is frectal”.

I hope to share some further thoughts on these issues and themes in further posts…


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