A mathematical object having an irregular or fragmented structure that is repeated at all scales.

Fractal figures differ from Euclidean geometric figures, notably in their irregularity. In Euclidean geometry, the dimension of figures is expressed as an integer: 0 for a point, 1 for a curve, 2 for a surface and 3 for a volume. In fractal geometry, a fractal dimension (or fractal image) can take on values that are not integers: the fractal dimension is a generalization of the concept of dimension in Euclidean geometry. For example, it can be used to show that figures with an area that is an integer can have an infinite perimeter.

Historical note

The term “fractal”, from the Latin fractus (meaning “broken”), was proposed by Polish-born French mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, around 1975, to refer to a Chou Romanescoconcept that was developed to study irregular or fragmented processes and forms found in many structures in nature, such as the coastlines of land masses, sponges, cloud formations, holes in Swiss cheese, certain varieties of cabbage, etc.


Educational note

Although this aspect of geometry is not taught in pre-university math programs, it may be interesting to note that the results of studies in this particular area of geometry have had many practical applications throughout the years, such as in the development of the coffee percolation process, the formation of gels, the development of the vulcanization process, the optimization of throughput in communications networks, the study of how epidemics spread, etc.

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