July 21, 2014 – Leave a Comment

Trees, Fractals, and Taxonomies

If you look at a branch of a typical deciduous tree, you can see that it looks like a smaller tree. Likewise, that branch branches off into smaller branches that look like even smaller trees. This characteristic of trees is an example of what mathematicians, biologists, and systems scientists call self-similarity. Self-similar systems repeat their basic geometry at smaller and smaller scales, creating multiple miniatures of themselves at different scales. In general, natural and mathematical systems in which self-similarity results in complex and detailed patterns are referred to as fractal systems.

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