In the mind’s eye, a fractal is a way of seeing infinity. – James Gleick
I just finished reading a really good book called “Chaos – Making a New Science” by James Gleick. It was recommended to me by the London Free Press photographer who took photos at my The Fractal Nature of Our Universe exhibit last summer. (Don’t forget the reprisal of that show, A Fractal Universe, is currently at the Station Arts Centre in Tillsonburg until April 7!)
It was a really interesting read, full of insight into the difficulties scientists and mathematicians have had in the past, with certain problems they encountered. Most of them involved non-linear dynamical systems – the kind you often find in nature. They were so troublesome that these problems would be put aside, ignored, deemed unsolvable. So many different kinds of scientists and mathematicians in the late 1960s and 1970s were separately converging on the same theories to solve these problems at the same time, while the tools (computers) to more freely explore these theories were also developing, one can truly say it was a science whose time had come. That didn’t mean that it didn’t meet with resistance! Sometimes even those who were essentially promoting the same ideas refused to acknowledge each other.
Fractals are a large part of Chaos Theory.
Wherever chaos led, Mandelbrot had some basis to claim that he had been there first. – James Gleick
However, there was much to discover even after Mandelbrot had provided this language for describing nature. Scientists wanted to know the “why” – and they still do. I am not sure how many scientists today are attempting to use chaos theory and the language of fractals to interpret systems from the smallest to the largest of scales. Certainly many ecologists, medical researchers, economists, meteorologists, and some astronomers are. But there is still some resistance.
Will those who are looking to complete a Grand Unified Theory give full consideration to Chaos Theory and Fractal Geometry? I hope so. Time will tell, and these are exciting times indeed.