Fractals: The Colors of Infinity,
with Arthur Clarke (1995)
Arthur C. Clarke presents this unusual documentary on the mathematical discovery of the
Mandelbrot Set (MSet) in the visually spectacular world of fractal geometry. This show relates the science
of the MSet to nature in a way that seems to identify the hand of God in the design of the universe itself.
Dr. Mandelbrot in 1980 discovered the infinitely complex geometrical shape called the Mandelbrot Set using a
very simple equation with computers and graphics.
Arthur C. Clarke's softspoken style sets the "common man" at ease, and his pinpoint commentary makes
the concept of fractals easy to understand. One need not be a stellar mathematician to grasp the concepts and why
they are profound. The experts are trotted out, and they, too, explain fractal geometry in ways that are
accessible to everyman.
Fractals are part of our lives, and maths informs everything that exists, whether natural or manmade.
When I saw this on TV several years ago, it reminded me of the Douglas Adams (of "Hitchhiker's Guide" fame)
book "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency." In the novel, a software engineer tries to create a program
that sets the flapping of a bird's wings to music using mathematical equations. That is exactly what fractals seem
to do; they describe events in nature in mathematical ways, and the section of "Colors" which discusses this
is eyeopening.
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