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NOVA: Fractals - Hunting the Hidden Dimension (2008)

Michael Schwarz , Bill Jersey  |  NR |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)

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NOVA: Fractals - Hunting the Hidden Dimension + The Story of 1 + Flatland: The Movie
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Product Details

  • Directors: Michael Schwarz, Bill Jersey
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: March 10, 2009
  • Run Time: 56 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001IBCS3C
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,153 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

What do movie special effects, the stock market, heart attacks, and the rings of Saturn have in common? They all consist of fractals, irregular repeating shapes that are found in cloud formations and tree limbs, in stalks of broccoli and craggy mountain ranges, and even in the rhythm of the human heart. NOVA takes viewers on a fascinating quest with a group of pioneering mathematicians determined to decipher the rules that govern fractal geometry. Their remarkable findings are deepening our understanding of nature and stimulating a new wave of scientific, medical and artistic innovation stretching from the ecology of the rainforest to fashion design. Features include: scene selections; English subtitles; and described video for the visually impaired. On one BD disc. Region coding: Region A. Audio: Dolby stereo. Screen format: 1080i.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
81 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beauty of Fractals January 25, 2009
This is an interesting and entertaining introduction to fractal geometry. It illustrates how the Julia and Mandelbrot sets were devised. Benoit B. Mandelbrot himself was dismissed and scoffed at by mathemeticians until he authored "The Factal Geometry of Nature", they then realized the connection of fractals & math and nature, even our bodies use it for economy of construction. There is order in so-called disorder except in cases of cancer. But computers were necessary to utilize the full potentials of fractals. This film offers graphic demonstrations. The spinoffs of B.Mandlebrot's book include the first ever computer generated special effects for Star Trek movies, some medical research applications, a quantum leap in design for antennaes for cell phones. Ships now from WGBH Boston.
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72 of 76 people found the following review helpful
I stumbled across this Nova documentary at the public library. It looked interesting, so I watched it with my two sons, who I homeschool, aged twelve and nine. I found the show to be fascinating. As a non-math person I found the show engaging and completely understandable. My twelve year old seemed to understand everything also. The show was not that dumbed down, as while watching it, it was apparent that some of it was going over the head of my nine year old but some of it stuck. (This is not a documentary for elementary grade aged children.)

If you don't know what it is, fractal geometry is a different geometry than classic or plane geometry. Fractal geometry is applied to three dimensional objects. That's about the simplest explanation I can give.

One thing I loved about the content and production of the show is that at first it seemed very abstract and possibly unimportant to the layperson's life but the show clearly showed how fractal geometry is relevant to modern living and has applications in the real world. When they explained that fractal geometry principals were used to create a new cell phone antennae that makes them more usable for customers around the world it was made clear that knowledge of fractals is important to daily life. It was said that engineers can use this new information in daily applications. Any time I can show my sons that math has applications in the real world that affect people's daily lives, I'm happy.

Another story of interest was that the tallest tree in a rainforest was studied. Measurements were taken of its trunk and branches and the fractal geometry calculations were in alignment with its size of growth.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The book of nature is written in mathematics" Galileo October 2, 2009
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
"The book of nature is written in mathematics." Galileo

A tree, a bush, a cauliflaur, a brain, a lung system, what all these organic structures share in common is the use of repeating patterns to create a whole that in its macroscopic view is just like its microscopic view.

Called fractals they have also been employed mathematically to describe forces of nature and also knowledge itself.

In one of my very favorite quotes of all time, the late Isaac Asimov observed that "Knowledge has a fractal like structure. No matter how much we learn, whatever remains, no matter how seemingly small, is infinitely complex."

Amazingly though artists had already informally discovered them, fractals came to the fore mathematically only in 1979 when Benoit Mandlebroit began writing about them and their ubiquity in nature. Mandlebroit had been a Jew trapped in France during WWII. He had survived to quickly earn his Phd. and then acquire a reputation as an academic very willing to follow his own hunches.

Lucky for us Mandlebroit overcame early disdain for his discovery and pursued fractal research zealously. As alluded earlier in this notice, examples of both organic and inorganic uses of fractals have dominated research since 1979.

For its part this DVD does an excellent job of discussing the history and various applications of fractals and it also inspires the viewer to further study and exploration of this important area of mathematics which actually turns out to be an example of creation itself.

While nature's "book" may be written in mathematics, this DVD at least allows you to view a synopsis of this chapter on film.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
On one hand, NOVA: Fractals - Hunting the Hidden Dimension is a fascinating introduction to fractals. Even those with weak backgrounds in mathematics or geometry (me!) will enjoy it. On the other hand, it is an attempt to tell the history of Mandelbrot's discoveries and their impact on the modern world. It's this second element that I found unsatisfying.

I think the producers of should have called it a tribute to Benoit B. Mandelbrot, because they did not really dig into the history of the fractals very well. We get a sense that there was a controversy about Mandelbrot, but never any details about his critics. The opposition appear in the movie as "straw men" who failed to recognize the work of a genius.

In fact, however, the history of the fractal seems to have been far more complex and interesting than a lone, rebel mathematician fighting the establishment. To be sure, Mandlebrot made groundbreaking progress with the application of his insights about fractals to nature, especially with the aid of the newly available technology of computers, but there is a historical context that the producers could have provided for us.

You can read Mandlebrot's own book to get a sense of the historical context. It is geared toward a general audience, and I found Mandlebrot to be quite willing himself to acknowledge the work of others:
Fractals and Chaos: The Mandelbrot Set and Beyond

You can also find a nice chapter on fractals in Ushakov's excellent book:
Histories of Scientific Insights
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
As always, NOVA presents facts clearly and intelligibly in an entertaining fashion. Fractals: Hunting the Hidden Dimension was fascinating.
Published 22 days ago by Robin the Hammer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 27 days ago by
5.0 out of 5 stars Great educational channel.
Great educational channel that can be seen by all ages by all generations; Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother, Aunt, Uncle, and grandparents.
Published 1 month ago by Pam Drapala
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Science Show
I enjoy watching NOVA because they give you an in depth look at the subject, not just a 5 minute soundbite. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Stanley Fernandes
5.0 out of 5 stars Most interesting.
The episodes were very informative and learned much to share. I would recommend any one who watch the Universe also put this in their favorites.
Published 1 month ago by Walter Kilyk
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!
This video is amazing. I am a teacher and I learned a lot from this. It's able to captivate high school level students well.
Published 1 month ago by Manuel Pedro
5.0 out of 5 stars There is no charge for awesomeness
Entertaining and informative! My kids love watching these over & over. They can travel around the world safely before bedtime! Great opportunity!
Published 2 months ago by amanda v mackenzie-campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars I Love Nova
PBS is usually always good and just think they wanted to stop government funding! Well thank God you know who didn't win
Published 2 months ago by T. Jackson
5.0 out of 5 stars NOVA Rocks
It doesn't matter how smart you are, you well learn something. The show is engaging for the kids and inspires them to learn more. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rich
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good overview of fractals and their application
This is a great introduction to the subject of fractals. It provides a clear definition of them, but most importantly it presents examples of how nature mimics fractal structures... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Paul A. Swanson
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