South African-Scottish research team demonstrate fractal light from lasers

Team confirms a 20-year-old prediction that “nature’s geometry” could be recreated by the use of laser technology.

We’ve all seen it before. The beautifully painted butterfly that appears when you spread open two sheets of paper, after covering them with paint and pushing them together. The geometrically shaped patterns of a shell of a tortoise, or the construction of the shell of a snail; the leaves of a succulent plant that repeat themselves over and over again, to create an intricate pattern; or the frost pattern on the windshield of a car after standing outside in winter.

These patterns are all examples of fractals, the geometry of nature. Fractals are the complex shapes that we see every day in nature. They have the distinctive feature of a repeating geometry with a structure at multiple scales and are found everywhere – from Romanesco broccoli to ferns, and even at larger scales such as salt flats, mountains, coastlines, and clouds. The shape of trees and mountains is self-similar, so a branch looks like a small tree and a rocky outcrop like a small mountain.