The Mesmerizing Beauty of Nature's Fractals

Nature mingles with math, to breathtaking results.

[optional image description]
Google Earth/Spain

Google Earth: source of information, source of wonder, source of art. In 2010, Paul Bourke, a research associate professor at the University of Western Australia, began using the service to capture images for his ongoing Google Earth Fractals series. Since then, he's amassed an amazing collection of space-based photographs that are equal parts science and beauty: Each intoxicating image on the project's website is accompanied by a KMZ file that lets users pinpoint the photos' locations on their own Google Earth viewers, putting them in geographic as well as aesthetic context.

As the blog My Modern Met put it,

It's almost unbelievable that these naturally curving branches of paths exist in such extraordinarily beautiful patterns. The fact that it's a distanced view of the lands we walk on makes it that much more incredible and breathtaking. It really shouldn't come as such of a surprise, though, since it is a view of organically produced land. Many of the images bear a remarkable resemblance to textures and patterns found in a simple leaf, if one were to zoom in. Alternatively, we're looking at our vast world, zoomed out.

Exactly. And the natural patterns here are suggestive not only of land, but also of the people who walk on it. The visual analogies are, seen in their way, animal: rocky capillaries, watery nerves, verdant vessels, and a reminder that the Earth is, on top of everything else, a frail body of its own. 

[optional image description]
Google Earth/Russia
[optional image description]
Google Earth/Egypt
[optional image description]
Google Earth/Spain
[optional image description]
Google Earth/Greenland
[optional image description]
Google Earth/Saudi Arabia
[optional image description]
Google Earth/Spain
[optional image description]
Google Earth/Austria
[optional image description]
Google Earth/Australia
[optional image description]
Google Earth/United States

MyModernMet via @stevesilberman

Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Technology

Just In