Eat Your Self-Similar Veggies: I’ve always loved fractals. Cauliflower, on the other hand, not so much. But new research published in the New Journal of Physics may have swayed my opinion on that evil white vegetable that was forced onto my dinner plate as a child.
It turns out, to my surprise, that cauliflower exhibits self-similar behavior as it grows. This means that its structure behaves like a fractal. Fractals appear to have the same structure over any scale — this means that when you look at the fractal’s structure far away, there’s no discernible difference to its structure up close. A craggy coastline is a physical example whereas the Mandelbrot set is a mathematical function. In the case of the humble cauliflower (particularly the Romanesco broccoli — pictured here), this self-similar pattern is obvious.
The new research has now unraveled the equation that governs this cauliflower-like fractal behavior and in doing so will help us understand some laboratory-based phenomena. For example, when scientists grow films of controlled smoothness or composition, if the conditions are wrong, the film exhibits a cauliflower-like growth pattern. via io9