I could easily get lost in fractals. If you clicked on the link in the previous sentence, you might begin to see what I mean.
There’s something about fractals that has fascinated me since I first started playing with them in the early eighties on my Z X Spectrum. I had no idea what they were, back then. The mathematics completely passed me by. It still does, to be honest, but at least now I know how they work and why they matter so much to LIFE.
I could explain fractals simply by saying they are self-similar patterns that repeat at many scales, from the cosmic to the microscopic – like the way a branch from a tree resembles the shape of the tree itself, and a twig from the branch resembles both and so on. A picture can paint a thousand words, though, so I strongly recommend that you go exploring the breathtakingly beautiful fractal patterns to be found on You Tube.
If you have about an hour to spare sometime, there’s a good overview of fractals in this film, made while Mandlebrot – the man who discovered them – was still alive:
Benoit Mandlebrot is a total hero of mine. His genius in moving away from the traditional smoothness of geometry and “opening up roughness for investigation” allowed the discovery of a dimension somewhere between the second and third – which is truly awesome.
The more you look for them, the more you find fractals. Obviously they are there in nature. We see them in cloud formations, coastlines, mountains, plants and within our own bodies. It’s no coincidence that a frost pattern looks like a fern or that the structures in my lungs branch like a tree. No such thing as coincidence…
I have another theory, though. I think fractals operate in time just as they do in space. I think we live in and through fractals. They explain why patterns of behaviour keep on repeating through history. They allow us to see why ‘self-similar’ events, ranging in scale from one person’s internal conflicts, through family or workplace disputes to full-on civil wars continue to rattle through time and space, reappearing with the same swirls and eddies we see in a Julia set.
Once I look at at the underlying pattern of ‘life, the universe and everything’ in fractal terms, I can see how my mood or health at a given point relates to what is happening for people I’m connected to at an emotional or mental level despite being many miles away in physical terms.
Even the transits and conjunctions my astrologically-minded friends describe to me in terms of planets, eclipses and new moons fit in effortlessly to the pattern. I no longer have to struggle to see how or why Mercury retrograde is ‘causing’ me communication problems. It’s pure chicken-and-egg – with all the patterns (cosmic to cellular) being intricately bound together in an ever-changing pattern, of which my – and your – life is an infinitesimal yet vital part.
I devote a couple of chapters to the way fractals and physical life are interconnected in my book LIFE: A Player’s Guide – my best attempt to date to explain how LIFE works.