Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

BPoD is 5

In 2017 we celebrate five years of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science

Fractal Fooling
23 April 2017

Fractal Fooling

What can you see here? A flower? A small green owl? Fireworks? Rorschach inkblots like this were widely used in the 20th century to assess personality and mental health. Today their use in psychiatry is controversial, but they still have an undeniable power to confuse the mind – why can different people see different things? Analysing the picture’s edges, where the paint bleeds into the paper, researchers found fractals – jagged repeating patterns also found in nature. Rorschach blots with a higher degree of fractals are more open to interpretation. They can fool the brain’s 'fractal fluency', how we spot nature’s patterns to find our way around. Work is underway to develop fractal-based bionic eyes to help partially-sighted patients to spot fractals, improving their vision and navigation. Perhaps then they may be similarly confused by this picture, which is almost certainly of two pink dinosaurs having a cup of tea.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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