Students Take Part in Quest to Build the Largest Fractal Ever

Fractal projectHollins University is participating in an exceptional construction project composed of over a million business cards and encompassing the entire Earth.

Hollins is one of 27 sites around the world supporting MegaMenger, an effort to build what is believed to be largest fractal ever. Over a dozen students, including those enrolled in Professor of Mathematics Caren Diefenderfer’s first-year seminar, “Games, Puzzles, and Logic,” are spearheading the construction at Hollins, which began earlier this month and continues through Saturday, October 25.

The university’s Wyndham Robertson Library serves as the primary build site. However, Diefenderfer and her students have also taken the project into the community at large. During the Virginia Science Festival in downtown Roanoke on October 11, they encouraged area adults and children to join in the construction.

According to the Fractal Foundation, a fractal is “a never-ending pattern that repeats itself at different scales. Although fractals are very complex, they are made by repeating a simple process.”

A Menger Sponge is a three-dimensional fractal that can be made from cubes attached together. Twenty single cubes made from business cards can be joined to make a Level 1 Menger Sponge, 20 Level 1 sponges make a Level 2 sponge, and 20 Level 2 sponges make a Level 3.

Each site will build one of 20 Level 3 sponges, each made of 8,000 cubes and in total making up a giant Level 4 sponge, spread around the entire world.

Diefenderfer estimates that Hollins will use between 50,000 and 60,000 business cards to complete its Level 3 sponge.

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Photo by Abrian Wilson ’18