Nova: Season 36, Episode 4

Hunting the Hidden Dimension (28 Oct. 2008)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary | Biography
8.1
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A look at fractal geometry, and how it is found just about everywhere in everything, and how the mathematics of fractals can be used to model and measure such things as mountains, ... See full summary »

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
Ralph Abraham ...
Himself - University of California - Santa Cruz
Loren Carpenter ...
Himself, Pixar Animation Studio
Dana Cartwright ...
Himself - Designer Software - LLC
...
Keith Devlin ...
Himself, Stanford University
Willi Geiger ...
Himself - Industrial Light & Magic
...
Himself (archive footage)
...
Dr. McCoy (archive footage)
Benoît B. Mandelbrot ...
Himself - physicist - Yale University (as Benoit Mandelbrot)
...
...
Jennifer Ouellette ...
Herself - Science writer
...
Himself / Narrator
...
Captain Kirk (archive footage)
Geoffrey West ...
Himself - Santa Fe Institute
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A look at fractal geometry, and how it is found just about everywhere in everything, and how the mathematics of fractals can be used to model and measure such things as mountains, coastlines, telephone line noise and heart rhythm. It also shows how they are used in animation, communications and textile design. Written by kamas716@yahoo.com

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28 October 2008 (USA)  »

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1.78 : 1
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A truly splendid film about fractals
18 September 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This is a superb film, jointly directed by Bill Jersey and Michael Schwarz, on the crucial subject of fractal geometry, and its manifestations throughout the whole of Nature. The film contains many beautiful illustrations of the fractal patterns and their occurrences in Nature, and many excellent interviews with stimulating and articulate experts. The most interesting interviews are of course with the discoverer of fractals himself, Benoit Mandelbrot (1924-2010). I was one of the early enthusiasts for fractals and acquired Mandelbrot's first book about them, FRACTALS, when it first came out in English translation in 1977 (it had appeared in French in 1975 because Mandelbrot was French). I attended a lecture by Mandelbrot in London in the late 1970s or early 1980s sometime, when he was still working for IBM. He was at that time a very dull and uninspiring speaker, with almost no presentational abilities of any kind. I chatted with him after his talk and he gave me his card, though we had no further contact. He was a bit more communicative in private conversation than he had been on the podium, as he was by nature a quiet fellow who clearly preferred thinking to talking. However, despite the dullness of the impression he made in those days, Mandelbrot was certainly a unique genius, and if there were any justice in the world, he should have been given a Nobel Prize. I was thrilled to see, when viewing this film, that later in life, Mandelbrot became very articulate and less shy. His interviews for this film are riveting, and I wish the entire uncut interview footage could somehow be circulated. (What happens to Nova's offcuts?) The 'Mandelbrot Revolution', for that is what it was, has in a sense only just begun, because all of these insights really need to be embodied in basic course materials for all schools, so that kids can grow up seeing things in the way they really are, and get a sound and correct view of life and of how Nature really works. At the moment, nothing of this kind is happening. It really needs to happen urgently. A proper understanding of fractals is, frankly, necessary for any intelligent or even semi-educated person, and I would enthusiastically recommend the DVD of this important film as a 'taster' for anybody and everybody. Why does not some philanthropist buy 150,000 DVDs of this film and give them away to schools? When are our educational systems ever going to emerge from the 19th century and enter the 22nd century? There is hardly any 'establishment' in the world more depressing, conservative, unimaginative, and hopeless that the so-called 'educational establishment'. No wonder society never seems to get anywhere, when so many of the people who run the schools are dolts. I will not attempt to explain in this review what fractals are, how they work, etc., as this film gives such a lively illustrated introduction for those who are interested, who can easily obtain the DVD from Amazon, and there are books available which carry the subject further for the general reader, and then of course the scientific books which pursue the detailed mathematics and the countless applications. Scientific articles using fractals appear in the scientific journals all the time nowadays, but this just isn't getting through to Joe Public somehow. Fractals are such a magnificent discovery that Mandelbrot really needs to be honoured with a gigantic statue in some public place somewhere, being a giant of the intellect, and as far as I am concerned, one of the great heroes of the 20th century. Tear down the images of the idiot politicians, and put up some statues instead of people with brains. What about a Mandelbrot Memorial in Washington, DC, for instance? Remember Dorothy Parker's witty remark when told that President Calvin Coolidge had died: 'How do they know?', referring to the fact that he seemed dead when he was walking around anyway. Time for a Science Hall of Fame. We should be publicly honouring Einstein, Dirac, Schrödinger, de Broglie, and Mandelbrot, not making a fuss over tawdry characters like certain politicians I could mention and assorted so-called 'world leaders' who only seem to know how to pull their trousers down in the Oval Office or at orgies in Rome or Paris, and are experts at stuffing ill-gotten money into their pockets, but have not a creative idea in their heads.


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