By B.C. Manion
Raj Warman was paging through his calculus II textbook one day and ran across a blurb about fractals.
The Academy at the Lakes science fair was coming up, and the ninth-grader said to himself, “Maybe I can do something with this.”
He titled his inquiry How Does Changing the Real and Imaginary Perturbation Affect the Mandelbrot Fractal?
If it sounds complicated, well, it is.
The Mandelbrot fractal is named after mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot who discovered a new class of mathematical shapes that are often found in nature and art. The key property of a fractal is it is self-similar, repeating its own pattern on every scale.
Amy Jordan, who teaches Warman, explained it as like a set of Russian dolls. Each one, though smaller, appears to look the same.
With fractals, the pattern goes on to infinity, the science teacher said.
If the concept is hard for some to grasp, that would be understandable, Jordan said.
The judges who chose the winners at Academy at the Lakes’ science fair are people with doctorate degrees. They told Jordan that Warman’s project would go over well at the University of South Florida’s Research Fair.
“The work is pretty high-level,” said Jordan, who taught at Harvard University before coming to Academy at the Lakes. “I knew it was aggressive. I didn’t know it was that aggressive.”
It’s difficult to explain Warman’s project in simple terms because at some point, breaking it down too simply results in being inaccurate, Jordan said.
Advancing from his school’s science fair was just the first of Warman’s accomplishments. He also took first place in the mathematics division of the Pasco County Regional Science and Engineering Fair.
The young man from Lutz will be competing at the State Science & Engineering Fair of Florida and has been invited and plans to compete at two international conferences that are scheduled for May in Phoenix and Houston.
Warman said his project investigates the use of fractals to predict chaotic events, such as weather patterns.
“There’s a new theory in quantum mechanics which states that nature would occur in chaotic patterns,” Warman said. So, if one could find a chaotic fractal that matched a particular weather pattern, it would be possible to predict a future weather pattern, he explained.
Warman is humble about his accolades.
“I wasn’t expecting to get awards, but with a lot of hard work and my teachers’ guidance I got there,” he said.
Warman is quick to thank Jordan, his mathematics teacher Christine O’ Laughlin and Alex Stark, a senior at the academy who helped him understand some of the complex mathematical concepts.
Warman said he began to discover a fascination for mathematics when he was in kindergarten.
He recalls getting packets of problems and being able to quickly solve them.
“It was just a bit easier for me than the rest of the classmates,” Warman said. As time went on, he was able to delve into more complex concepts and to understand them, he added.
“I love mathematics and how it describes everything that occurs in our day-to-day life. If I am asked to, I can see everything in mathematical terms,” Warman said.
Even things like tables and chairs can be reduced to mathematical expressions, he said.
And the deeper he dives into mathematics, the more exciting it becomes, he added.
“Once you get to calculus, you can describe movements of particles,” he said. “That’s really interesting to me.”
Warman said his interest in science began slightly later — as a first- or second-grader.
His mom brought home books from the library, and they did science experiments. He recalls making a volcano with baking soda and vinegar, and also testing what happens when you combine water and oil.
“I guess that’s where my love for science started,” said Warman, whose parents, Dhiraj Warman and Gitanjali Vidyarthi, are both physicians, and whose younger siblings, Anmol and Roshan, both attend Academy at the Lakes.
While he’s not sure of his career path yet, he hopes to pursue one that combines mathematics and science. Some possibilities at this point include biological statistics and theoretical physics, Warman said.
At the moment, though, he’s simply looking forward to competing at more science fairs.
Raj Warman’s science awards
—United States of America Army Award
—The Office of Naval Research Naval Science Award
—Intel Excellence in Computer Science Award
—American Metrological Society Award
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