Who? Dina El Filali, BSc International Land- and Water Management
What? Internship with CEBAS-CSIC, an institute that researches erosion, sedimentation and ecosystems
Where? Murcia, Spain
‘As a child I was fascinated by patterns, like the ones on traditional Moroccan ceilings. The stone masons clearly knew these patterns by heart. In nature you can find similarly complex patterns, which we call fractals. Fractals have a pattern that repeats on an ever diminishing scale. Just consider the structure of blood vessels, or how the branches of a tree divide to form new branches.
In Murcia I am studying whether fractals can be used to simulate gullies, which are eroded channels. For the research institute where I work, I’m studying the catchment area of the River Carcabo. I recently measured a gully and now I am using that data to try to determine its fractal characteristics. With the software that’s available, it’s quite a bit harder than we thought it would be to actually simulate gullies. Once I’ve identified the fractal pattern, I can demonstrate the extent to which we can simulate it.
I think the way the world is structured is simply beautiful. Sometimes I think it’s like the universe follows a certain pattern and that this recurs on every conceivable level. The way in which we build cities, for example, evidently resembles the way neurons branch out in our brain. It’s hard to describe this scientifically whereas literature provides all the scope you need to capture it. That’s why I like to write stories, as a way of expressing something of that beauty.
Here in Spain everything is wonderfully late, and that suits me. I was greeted with “Welcome to Africa!”, and sometimes it almost feels like that. The streets are always buzzing with life and late at night the children are even still running about. With local friends I sometimes visit the surrounding Moorish villages; one girl is an archaeologist and she’s a walking encyclopedia. She can tell you something about just about everything.’