Most everything in the natural world can be seen as a fractal. What's a fractal?
A fractal is generally "a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole," a property called self-similarity. The term was coined by Benoît Mandelbrot in 1975 and was derived from the Latin fractus meaning "broken" or "fractured." A mathematical fractal is based on an equation that undergoes iteration, a form of feedback based on recursion. (Wikipedia)
What's really a fractal? Trees. Ferns. Coneflowers. Rivers. Mountains. Coastlines. Clouds. Snowflakes. Broccoli. Blood vessels. These things can be modeled and hypothetically extended on the computer via mathematical equations.
This knowledge can potentially heal us in several ways:
1) The tiny blood vessels that form with cancer cells are nearly impossible to see with a microscope. By using ultrasound, however, we can see them as fractals, and by using fractal algorithms we can possibly predict if these blood vessels will lead to cancer formation.
2) Heartbeats can be mapped as fractals, and could possibly lead us to help identify heart attack risk.
3) By studying one tree in the forest, an example of fractal formation, scientists can predict the growth of the larger forest and calculate how much oxygen they are producing and how much carbon they are sequestering.
4) Larger animals / plants more efficiently use energy than smaller ones. Why? Internal wiring within the genetic code is fractal based.
More? Cell phones, needing to be small and transmit / receive many differnet sorts of signals, use fractal-shaped antennas.
I find it both disturbing and transcendent to think of our natural world as a fractal. To think we can mathematically map and predict the world takes away the awe, maybe the soul in some respects. If we can put nature on a computer screen, what bounds does our hubris have? If we know where we are going, what does matter where we've been or what we're doing now?
And yet, to know is to heal, but so often our knowing destroys our bodies and souls, so it's easy to distrust this knowledge, easy to want to fight against it. I think I begin to understand the enlightenment more, or at least the struggles of belief and faith, past and present, the destruction of our various global cultures and ecosystems of both human and animal / plant.
*My thanks go to PBS's Nova series for the above info on fractals.