NOVA: Fractals - Hunting the Hidden Dimension
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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.Read more ›
LACK OF HISTORICAL CONTEXT
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.
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING
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:
...Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Totally awesome film great to use with geometry, algebra 2 and pre calculus classes.Published 9 days ago by fris
Nova is always interesting. As usual they showed multiple view points on the topic. Beautifully videoed and edited. A pleasure to watch and learn from.Published 11 days ago by Bill P
Not the first time ordered. I don't seem to be able to keep this DVD -- it's so riveting that I give it away to others who feel the same way about it.Published 14 days ago by Nancy