Fractals Get Great Reception with Do-It-Yourself TV


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WALTHAM, Mass.-- Growing interest in free HDTV has created a new problem for millions: how to get better reception. Do it yourself (DIY) experimenters have embraced the problem with an exotic new technology using fractals— intricate self similar shapes--as antennas. And along with better TV reception, they inadvertently explore the frontiers and marriage of mathematics and art with high tech--built on fractals.

“It’s gone from a ripple to a torrent. We used to get one or two TV antenna queries, now my email is peppered daily with happy thank-you’s for letting folks watch Family Guy without snowy signals,” commented the inventor of the fractal antenna technology, Nathan Cohen. “Its grass roots, home grown fractal engineering, built out of fun and fueled by need.”

Home grown fractals are the origins of fractal electronics. Cohen started the field in the 1980’s by making DIY fractal antennas, shirking his professional scientist status to play out a hunch. The first fractal antennas were aluminum foil cutouts and bent wires. “I didn’t have a million dollar lab and a staff of 20 grad students. I had curiosity, simple supplies, and a practical problem to solve: how to build an unobtrusive ham radio antenna. To my happy surprise, fractals proved a natural for antennas and electronics,” commented Cohen.

In the years since, Cohen finds himself a pioneer in a growing field that probes the uses of fractals in engineering. Fractals have proven a key element to understanding Maxwell’s equations (the guiding laws for electromagnetics); making smaller electronic tuned circuits; and even wideband invisibility cloaks. New applications reducing drag on airfoils and hydrofoils, and cancer treatment are among those that signal the emergence of fractal engineering.

Like all new ideas, fractal antennas have had to pay their dues. “Although there are dozens of recent scientific publications on fractal antennas and fractal electronics from research teams all over the globe, the antenna field in the U.S. has been slow to accept the advantages. There is a lot of ‘not invented here’ inertia, even though I invented them in the U.S.,” said Cohen. “But smart kids and thrifty home experimenters don’t have such inhibitions. They just started building them, and hooking them up to their TV’s.”

...Cohen’s firm, Fractal Antenna Systems, Inc., is the patent holder on fractal antenna and related technologies, and he stresses that an individual personally constructing one or two for experimentation is well within the allowance of the patent system. The firm makes antennas across the board for applications in the wireless world, but does not have an HDTV antenna--yet. Cohen said: “We realize some folks will want to buy their HDTV fractal antennas, so I am happy to report that we will be launching such a product in 2012. Leave that to us. We want to have some HDTV fun too.”
Read More: Fractals Get Great Reception with Do-It-Yourself TV | EON: Enhanced Online News
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