Scale Linking in the Savannah

By Adam Brock


I’m still trippin’ out on the latest TED Talk by Ron Eglash. The ethno-mathematician spent a year searching for fractal patterns in African villages, and found that self-similarity pervades the design of their settlements, ornamentation and even their games. My favorite part comes at the four minute mark, where Eglash throws down a diagram of a Ba-ila settlement in Zimbabwe that shows the same rounded pattern represented in the shapes of the village, family enclosure, and household. And within each household, the shape repeats again in miniature form as the home of the ancestors… ad infinitum.

Just another example of “primitive”societies employing a knowledge of natural systems that’s far more sophisticated than our own… here’s to hoping 1491 author Charles C Mann gets to take the stage for TED 08.


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