ISM2019 (Microscopy)

EDWARD BURTYNSKY’S PHOTOGRAPH OF COLORADO RIVER DELTA IS SIMILAR IN FRACTAL DIMENSION TO MICROSCOPIC IMAGES OF BIOLOGICAL FORMS


Tamira Elul 1 Amanda Balmages 1 Lucille Shiffman 1 Kavya Narendra-Babu 2 Elijah Lustig 1
1Basic Sciences, Touro University California, Vallejo, CA, USA
2Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA

Many forms found at very different scales and contexts in nature are statistically self-similar or fractal. The environmental artist Edward Burtynsky is well known for capturing striking aerial photographs of man-altered and man-made landscapes. Burtynsky’s photographs of these modified environments often contain fractals and repetitions, as found in natural forms. Here, we use mathematical measurements to compare his photograph of a parched Colorado River Delta, with microscopic images of two biological branched structures - a Slime Mold and a Purkinje Neuron. Our results show that the Burtynsky River Delta is similar in fractal dimension and branch width ratio to the Slime Mold and the Purkinje Neuron. This statistical similarity we demonstrate between the Burtynsky River Delta, Slime Mold and Purkinje Neuron underscores the idea that there are a limited number of patterns found in nature, and may also explain the aesthetic appeal of Burtynsky’s photograph of this man-altered landscape.