Fractangular Frolics

Here’s an interesting shape that looks like a distorted and dissected capital S:

A distorted and dissected capital S


If you look at it more closely, you can see that it’s a fractal, a shape that contains itself over and over on smaller and smaller scales. First of all, it can be divided completely into three copies of itself (each corresponding to a line of the fractangle seed, as shown below):

The shape contains three smaller versions of itself


The blue sub-fractal is slightly larger than the other two (1.154700538379251…x larger, to be more exact, or √(4/3)x to be exactly exact). And because each sub-fractal can be divided into three sub-sub-fractals, the shape contains smaller and smaller copies of itself:

Five more sub-fractals


But how do you create the shape? You start by selecting three lines from this divided equilateral triangle:

A divided equilateral triangle


These are the three lines you need to create the shape:

Fractangle seed (the three lines correspond to the three sub-fractals seen above)


Now replace each line with a half-sized set of the same three lines:

Fractangle stage #2


And do that again:

Fractangle stage #3


And again:

Fractangle stage #4


And carry on doing it as you create what I call a fractangle, i.e. a fractal derived from a triangle:

Fractangle stage #5


Fractangle stage #6


Fractangle stage #7


Fractangle stage #8


Fractangle stage #9


Fractangle stage #10


Fractangle stage #11


Here’s an animation of the process:

Creating the fractangle (animated)


And here are more fractangles created in a similar way from three lines of the divided equilateral triangle:

Fractangle #2


Fractangle #2 (anim)

(open in new window if distorted)


Fractangle #2 (seed)


Fractangle #3


Fractangle #3 (anim)


Fractangle #3 (seed)


Fractangle #4


Fractangle #4 (anim)


Fractangle #4 (seed)


You can also use a right triangle to create fractangles:

Divided right triangle for fractangles


Here are some fractangles created from three lines chosen of the divided right triangle:

Fractangle #5


Fractangle #5 (anim)


Fractangle #5 (seed)


Fractangle #6


Fractangle #6 (anim)


Fractangle #6 (seed)


Fractangle #7


Fractangle #7 (anim)


Fractangle #7 (seed)


Fractangle #8


Fractangle #8 (anim)


Fractangle #8 (seed)


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Here’s a set of three lines:

Three lines


Now try replacing each line with a half-sized copy of the original three lines:

Three half-sized copies of the original three lines


What shape results if you keep on doing that — replacing each line with three half-sized new lines — over and over again? I’m not sure that any human is yet capable of visualizing it, but you can see the shape being created below:

Morphogenesis #3


Morphogenesis #4


Morphogenesis #5


Morphogenesis #6


Morphogenesis #7


Morphogenesis #8


Morphogenesis #9


Morphogenesis #10


Morphogenesis #11 — the Hourglass Fractal


Morphogenesis of the Hourglass Fractal (animated)


The shape that results is what I call the hourglass fractal. Here’s a second and similar method of creating it:

Hourglass fractal, method #2 stage #1


Hourglass fractal #2


Hourglass fractal #3


Hourglass fractal #4


Hourglass fractal #5


Hourglass fractal #6


Hourglass fractal #7


Hourglass fractal #8


Hourglass fractal #9


Hourglass fractal #10


Hourglass fractal #11


Hourglass fractal (animated)


And below are both methods in one animated gif, where you can see how method #1 produces an hourglass fractal twice as large as the hourglass fractal produced by method #2:

Two routes to the hourglass fractal (animated)


Elsewhere other-engageable:

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Neuclid on the Block

How many blows does it take to demolish a wall with a hammer? It depends on the wall and the hammer, of course. If the wall is reality and the hammer is mathematics, you can do it in three blows, like this:

α’. Σημεῖόν ἐστιν, οὗ μέρος οὐθέν.
β’. Γραμμὴ δὲ μῆκος ἀπλατές.
γ’. Γραμμῆς δὲ πέρατα σημεῖα.

1. A point is that of which there is no part.
2. A line is a length without breadth.
3. The extremities of a line are points.

That is the astonishing, world-shattering opening in one of the strangest – and sanest – books ever written. It’s twenty-three centuries old, was written by an Alexandrian mathematician called Euclid (fl. 300 B.C.), and has been pored over by everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Bertrand Russell by way of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Its title is highly appropriate: Στοιχεῖα, or Elements. Physical reality is composed of chemical elements; mathematical reality is composed of logical elements. The second reality is much bigger – infinitely bigger, in fact. In his Elements, Euclid slipped the bonds of time, space and matter by demolishing the walls of reality with a mathematical hammer and escaping into a world of pure abstraction.

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