Thursday, December 16, 2010

Santa, 12 Days and Fractals

Happy holidays to everyone and here's a seasonal piece of advice; take care when your daughter is around with her cellphone. The next thing you know is the entire world gets to see you looking like this. Actually I was quite flattered since it does seem to convey some Christmas spirit.

Talking of Christmas the 364 items in all the verses of the 12 Days of Christmas now cost almost $100,000 dollars, $96,824 to be precise. According to MSNBC only 4 of the items didn't go up this year but there was a 9.2% increase in the overall cost of the items over last year. Isn't it interesting that there are 364 items altogether; one short of the number of days in a year.

Also with a math theme is the little known area of study known as Fractal Geometry, the subject of an incredible Nova program on PBS last night featuring Benoit Mandelbrot, the father of the study of fractals. I first became aware of fracals several years ago when I was working with a High School student with cerebral palsy. He didn't like traditional mathematics very much but really developed an interest in the creative aspect of fractals.

Something I didn't realize before watching the Nova program is that fractal geometry is a way of making mathematical sense of the natural world such as mountains, leaves, clouds and all sorts of things. It is even being used in medical science to predict things like heart failure.

The Sierpinski Triangle is probably the easiest way to think about fractals which are basically the iteration of the same shape over and over again, in this case a triangle. Here are some Google Images of fractals, and a Yale site with lots of activities.

And who said mathematics cannot have an aesthetic quality? Happy holidays everyone. Tim

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