A fractal is an image in which a pattern repeats itself infinitely many times.
You can construct some fractals by repeating the same geometrical operation over and over again; repeating the same procedure like this is called iterating. The geometrical operation which is repeated is called the iterated function. The fractal thus generated will have exactly the same pattern if you zoom in. You can generate these kind of fractals by using GeoGebra. By introducing random variables you can use these kind of fractals to generate pictures similar to nature. Random fractals are used to generate fractal landscapes.
Other fractals are generated by using a recursive formula on a point over and over again. Typically the point will either tend to infinity or not. When generating fractals like these you measure how long it takes for a point to "escape" outside some given boundary; they are therefore called Escape-time fractals. These fractals do not have exactly the same pattern when you zoom in, but the structure of the pattern is the same.
Fractals can also appear as strange attractors to nonlinear dynamic systems. Nonlinear dynamic systems can exhibit unpredictable behaviour due to the fact that the error grows exponentially as you iterate. Even though you cannot predict exactly where a point will end up, you can predict that it will end up at the so called strange attractor, an attractor that has a fractal structure. Note that there is nothing random in the system itself, the behaviour is seemingly chaotic but it is deterministic; it is thus called deterministic chaos.
by Malin Christersson under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Sweden License