Fire, smoke, trees, clouds, the moon, everything is made of fractals. From ancient shamans who painted their visions on cave walls, to master architects of the mosque of Córdoba, to Mandelbrot and his computer simulations, we have always been aware of this underlying order in some way or the other. One divides in to two ones, each ones further dividing ad infinitum creating the beautiful diversity that surrounds us from nano to astro scale. Smoke particles in that photo froze with the moon in the background to creating a sense of cosmic unity, as above so below.
That was a great night, at one of my friend’s birthday party. I didn’t plan for this to happen at all. Few of us sat around talking around a tent and someone decided to get a fire going in the backyard. Added two more shots from my own backyard next morning.
From Wiki, The word “fractal” often has different connotations for laypeople than for mathematicians, where the layperson is more likely to be familiar with fractal art than a mathematical conception. The mathematical concept is difficult to define formally even for mathematicians, but key features can be readily understood.
The feature of “self-similarity”, for instance, is easily understood by analogy to zooming in with a lens or other device that zooms in on digital images to uncover finer, previously invisible, new structure. If this is done on fractals, however, no new detail appears; nothing changes and the same pattern repeats over and over, or for some fractals, nearly the same pattern reappears over and over. This infinitely recurring patterns converge upon either other to create layers upon layers of incredible complexity and beauty.
Far away in the heavenly abode of Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each eye of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars in the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process occurring. ~ Avatamsaka Sutra (Codified circa. 3rd century CE)
I recall growing up in Sri Lanka, the word “indrajala” (Sanskrit: The net of Indra) somehow sent shudders down my spine. The usage of the word in Sri Lankan folklore was somehow associated with dark magic. If you were hit with an ‘indrajala’ you may be stupefied, paralyzed and may enter an altered state of consciousness. I can understand now how this specific usage must have come in to being. Solving Mandelbrot equations and conceptualizing infinity is no mean feat. Connecting smoke particles and the moon is not something I get up to on a Friday night at a friend’s birthday party.
Some physics lectures come back to me. Space and time can be conceptualized as one entity – a sort of a stretched fabric, like a trampoline stretching in all directions in to infinity. Did Siddhartha and Stephen see the same thing?