514: The Colours of Infinity by Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon

by Gerard


514.742: Lesmoir-Gordon, Nigel, ed. The Colours of Infinity: The Beautry and Power of Fractals. London: Springer, 2010. 172 pp. ISBN 978-1-84966-486-9.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 510: Mathematics
  • 514: Topology
  • 514.7: Analytic topology
  • 514.74: Global analysis
  • 514.742: Fractals

Fractals are both recent and timeless. They have only existed in mathematical literature for the last hundred or so years, but nature has had them from its first day. Fractal patterns exist in snowflakes, in trees, in mountain ridges, in coastlines, and even in broccoli. Although the word “fractal” was coined in 1975 by the famed mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, work was being done in fractional and recursive geometry around the time of the invention of calculus. Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon’s The Colours of Infinity is collection of essays that explores the mathematical, physical, and imaginative boundaries of fractals and what this means for our understanding of the world today.

In short, a fractal is a figure created by infinitely modifying a line or shape according to a particular rule. In the commonly seen Sierpinski triangle, the base triangle is divided into four smaller ones. Each of those is divided in the same way, and so on, until you get an infinite array of smaller and smaller triangles. The famous Mandelbrot set is even more wondrous.

All the points in the body of the set can be contained by a simple, short equation (Z ↔ z*z + c), but you can set the visual boundaries as tight or as large as you want to. Eventually, you will always finds a copy of the original image inside itself. The rest of the set has infinite possibilities to explore, and each of the writers in this volume expound upon their experiences with fractals. If you’re a math nut, then you’ll really enjoy this one; if not, it still has a lot of pretty pictures. A very quirky read.