Beautiful Math


NARRATOR: You can find it in the rain forest, on the frontiers of medical research, in the movies, and it’s all over the world of wireless communications. One of nature’s biggest design secrets has finally been revealed.
GEOFFREY WEST (Santa Fe Institute): My god, of course. It’s obvious.
NARRATOR: It’s an odd-looking shape you may never have heard of, but it’s everywhere around you: the jagged repeating form called a fractal.
JAMES BROWN (University of New Mexico): They’re all over in biology. They’re solutions that natural selection has come up with over and over and over again.
NARRATOR: Fractals are in our lungs, kidneys and blood vessels.
KEITH DEVLIN (Stanford University): Flowers, plants, weather systems, the rhythms of the heart, the very essences of life.
NARRATOR: But it took a maverick mathematician to figure out how they work.
BENOIT MANDELBROT (Yale University): I don’t play with formulas, I play with pictures. And that is what I’ve been doing all my life.

John Tierney has more.