The Classics Have Fractal Quality

Answering a question no one was asking (and possibly procrastinating on other projects (or likely having lost a bet (or very likely using grant resources that they’d otherwise have to return (and/or definitely exercising strong nerd power)))), physicists have found that many great works of literature resemble fractals.

The academics put more than 100 works of world literature, by authors from Charles Dickens to Shakespeare, Alexandre Dumas, Thomas Mann, Umberto Eco and Samuel Beckett, through a detailed statistical analysis. Looking at sentence lengths and how they varied, they found that in an “overwhelming majority” of the studied texts, the correlations in variations of sentence length were governed by the dynamics of a cascade – meaning that their construction is a fractal: a mathematical object in which each fragment, when expanded, has a structure resembling the whole. (via Prufrock et al)

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