The Fractal Geometry of Nature

Polygonal cracking of the surface in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica

I've already touched on the idea that the cracking and blistering of the earth's surface must have some sort of fractal quality to it, since all over the world, at various latitudes and under enormous variations in temperature, the polygonal patterns that result from drying or freezing are uncannily similar, although they may vastly differ in size. The Antarctic polygons above are some twenty to thirty feet across; I took this picture from several hundred feet in a helicopter. Those below, from a Gobi desert riverbed, are on the order of three to five inches across. Any geophysicists out there who want to chime in and explain the reasons for this phenomenon, please, share.

Polygonal cracking of the surface in the Gobi desert, Inner Mongolia. Note the scale suggested by the dessicated branch of a shrub in the upper right hand corner

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