self-similarity

[ sĕlf′sĭm′ə-lărĭ-tē ]

The property of having a substructure analogous or identical to an overall structure. For example, a part of a line segment is itself a line segment, and thus a line segment exhibits self-similarity. By contrast, no part of a circle is a circle, and thus a circle does not exhibit self-similarity. Fractals such the Sierpinski triangle are self-similar to an arbitrary level of magnification; many natural phenomena, such as clouds and plants, are self-similar to some degree. See more at fractal.

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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.