Media Hunt #2: Fractals in African Villages

The below video is of a presentation given by a mathematician/ anthropologist named Ron Eglash.  (He is considered an “ethnomathematician” because he studies mathematics as it relates to culture.)  Several years ago he was looking at aerial photographs of African villages and saw what he considers to be fractal patterns.  He later found that these villages were intentionally built with self-similar patterns for religious and other cultural reasons.  The patterns seen in the layouts of these villages differ from the branch-like patterns and convoluted boundaries that we have focused on in class, but there is some self-similarity present from the large scale to smaller scales so they can be considered fractals.  These are not perfect mathematical fractals as they only scale down a finite number of times, but they still provide an interesting example of self-similar patterns.  They also loosely relate to Philip Ball’s comments about the layout of cities in chapter 2 of Branches.

The part of the video that specifically relates to these villages is from 3:00 to about 6:30 into the video.  Also, in the first three minutes there is a general discussion of fractals that includes references to the Cantor set and the Koch curve. 

More details about the shapes of the villages, the occurrence of self-similar patterns in African art, and about fractals in general can be found at…     

http://csdt.rpi.edu/african/African_Fractals/homepage.html

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