The Roughness of Creation

Understanding the Proportions of Life and the Laws They Obey

While many of the mysteries of alternative science, which fascinate many of us, have gone unrecognized by orthodox science, a few have broken through into mainstream consciousness, where they provide a continuing source of confusion and irritation to the more conventionally minded among us. Here are two recent productions from PBS’s NOVA series that make the point.




You may not know it, but fractals, like the air you breathe, are all around you. Their irregular, repeating shapes are found in cloud formations and tree limbs, in stalks of broccoli and craggy mountain ranges, even in the rhythm of the human heart. In this film, NOVA takes viewers on a fascinating quest with a group of pioneering mathematicians determined to decipher the rules that govern fractal geometry.

For centuries fractal-like irregular shapes were considered beyond the boundaries of mathematical understanding. Now, mathematicians have finally begun mapping this uncharted territory. Their remarkable findings are deepening our understanding of nature and stimulating a new wave of scientific, medical, and artistic innovation stretching from the ecology of the rain forest to fashion design. This documentary highlights a host of researchers, filmmakers, physicians, and fashion designers who are using fractal geometry to innovate and inspire. You’ll see how fractals can be used to better understand everything from coastlines and rainforests to weather systems and human physiology.

Benoit Mandelbrot is introduced as the father of fractals and fractal geometry. The narrator recounts that while Mandelbrot was working at IBM, he noticed patterns in phone-line transmissions that reminded him of a hundred-year-old mystery known as mathematical “monsters.” The program illustrates some of the monsters, including the Cantor set, Koch’s snowflake, and the Julia set; and it shows how Mandelbrot used the Julia set to create his own equation that, when iterated and graphed on a computer, generated the well-known “Mandelbrot set.”

Mandelbrot was a Polish-born, French and American mathematician with broad interests in the practical sciences, especially regarding what he labeled as “the art of roughness” of physical phenomena and “the uncontrolled element in life.” He referred to himself as a ‘fractalist’ and coined the word ‘fractal’ as well as developed a “theory of roughness and self-similarity” in nature. He saw ‘roughness’ in the shapes of mountains, coastlines, and river basins; the structure of plants, blood vessels, and lungs; and the clustering of galaxies.

Simply put, there are some geometric shapes (fractals) that are equally ‘rough’ at all scales; that, no matter how closely you look, they never get simpler; a form of geometric repetition in which smaller and smaller copies of a pattern are successively nested inside each other so that the same intricate shapes appear no matter how much you zoom in to the whole. One might have thought that such a simple and fundamental form of regularity would have been studied for hundreds, or thousands, of years, but—not. In fact, it rose to prominence only over the past 30 or so years—mostly through the efforts of Mandelbrot.

However, Mandelbrot never felt he was inventing a new idea. He described his feelings: “Exploring this set, I certainly never had the feeling of invention. I never had the feeling that my imagination was rich enough to invent all those extraordinary things on discovering them. They were there, even though nobody had seen them before. It’s marvelous; a very simple formula explains all these very complicated things. So the goal of science is starting with a mess and explaining it with a simple formula, a kind of dream of science.”

In 1936, while he was a child, Mandelbrot’s family migrated to France. After World War II ended, Mandelbrot studied mathematics, graduating from universities in Paris and the United States and receiving a master’s degree in aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology. He spent most of his career in both the United States and France, having dual French and American citizenship. In 1958, he began a 35-year career at IBM, where he became an IBM Fellow, and periodically took leaves of absence to teach at Harvard University. At Harvard, following the publication of his study of U.S. commodity markets in relation to cotton futures, he taught economics and applied sciences.

Because of his access to IBM’s computers, Mandelbrot was one of the first to use computer graphics to create and display fractal geometric images, leading to his discovering the ‘Mandelbrot set’ in 1979. He showed how visual complexity can be created from simple rules. He said that things typically considered to be ‘rough,’ a ‘mess,’ or ‘chaotic,’ like clouds or shorelines, actually had a ‘degree of order.’ His math and geometry-centered research career included contributions to such fields as statistical physics, meteorology, hydrology, geomorphology, anatomy, taxonomy, neurology, linguistics, information technology, computer graphics, economics, geology, medicine, physical cosmology, engineering, chaos theory, econophysics, metallurgy, and the social sciences.

This ‘roughness’ idea is fascinating, especially when you hear him speak of savoring the ‘unsmooth.’ In an interview with NOVA, the narrator asks: “You’ve said, ‘My whole career is an ardent pursuit of the concept of roughness.’ What exactly do you mean by that?”

His response was: “Actually, this word ‘roughness’ has different meanings according to context. Until I turned 20 and World War II ended, my life was becoming increasingly rough because of historical events over which no one I knew had any control. But after I turned 20, things changed. Without any clear plan or conscious decision, I became fascinated by, and then almost exclusively devoted to, all kinds of phenomena in which irregularity and variability dominate but are so great that they don’t average out. This led me first to disbelieve and then to contradict in a radical fashion what everybody else was saying about those phenomena. The predominant view of irregularity continues to follow Galileo’s famous saying that the Great Book of Nature is written in the language of mathematics, the characters being circles, triangles, and other such shapes. A circle is perfectly regular. A triangle has three corners and is otherwise very smooth, and the great bulk of science studies smooth behavior, in particular, using equations that assume that everything evolves in a very regular fashion.

“But I was so alone that the direction I was following was not described by any existing word. In 1975, my work forced me to coin one: ‘fractal.’ The Latin adjective, fractus, can denote anything that is like a broken-up stone—irregular and fragmented. The sudden realization that “fractal” deserved to be put in a book’s title changed nothing in the substance but brought considerable change in the perception of my work. The word is now found in many dictionaries. With two hands, you can count all the simple shapes of nature—everything else is rough.”

This program gives us a clearer understanding of how the application of fractal geometry has already altered our world. For example: the engineer who worked for IBM on fractals then moved from IBM to Lucas films, using his knowledge and understanding to create computer generated landscapes; downsizing wire antennas; better understanding human physiology; and investigating why large animals use energy more efficiently than small ones; and much more.

The quality of this film is excellent, as are most NOVA productions, and it includes special features: printable materials for educators; English subtitles; and described video for the visually impaired.

DVD – 56 Min. • $24.95 • 1-800-228-8381





In 1900, a storm blew a boatload of sponge divers off course and forced them to take shelter by the tiny Mediterranean island of Antikythera. Diving the next day, they discovered a 2,000-year-old Greek shipwreck. They had come upon a heap of marble and bronze sculptures. It was part of the biggest hoard of Greek treasure ever found. It had come from an overloaded Roman galley, sunk 2,000 years ago, as Rome’s empire began to grab Greece’s overseas colonies in the Mediterranean. By accident, the divers had rescued some of ancient Greece’s most beautiful artifacts. But among the collection of bronze and marble statues was perhaps the most important object of all: Item 15087 in the Athens Museum. It had been split into several, badly corroded lumps of bronze. Then, remarkably, researchers noticed rusted remnants of gear wheels on its surface, suggesting some kind of intricate mechanism. The first X-ray studies confirmed that idea, but how it worked and what it was for puzzled scientists for decades.

Recently, hi-tech imaging has revealed the extraordinary truth: this unique clockwork machine was the world’s first computer. An array of 30 intricate, bronze gear wheels, originally housed in a shoebox-size wooden case, was designed to predict the dates of lunar and solar eclipses, track the Moon’s subtle motions through the sky, and calculate the dates of significant events, such as the Olympic Games. No device of comparable technological sophistication was known from anywhere in the world for at least another 1,000 years. So who was the genius inventor behind it? And what happened to the advanced astronomical and engineering knowledge of its makers? NOVA follows the ingenious sleuthing that finally decoded the truth behind the amazing ancient Greek computer, now known as the ‘Antikythera Mechanism.’

This compelling documentary, highlighting current technology and reverse engineering, features: Astronomer, Mike Edmunds; Mathematician, Tony Freeth; X-ray Engineer, Roger Hadland; Historian of Ancient Astronomy, Alexander Jones; Archaeologist, Dimitris Kourkoumelis; Historian of Babylonian Astronomy, John Steele; Coin Expert, Panagiotis Tselekas; Mechanical Engineer, Michael Wright; and Senior Archaeologist, Mary Zafeiropoulou. These men and women offer an astounding solution (of high probability) to this fascinating find. To see Michael Wright’s working model is a nice finale to this program.

About Michael Wright, this is what Kristina Panos had to say: One of Wright’s insightful suppositions about the device was that the gearing that drove the display on the back side, where eclipse prediction takes place, appeared to have a pin and slot mechanism. His adapted x-rays revealed a slot and the ghost of a circular piece inside of it. Wright ultimately determined that the pin gear and the slot gear pivot on slightly offset axes. Both are connected to the 223-tooth gear, which keeps track of the Moon’s orbit. This meant that the pin and slot mechanism was a differential gearing solution designed to compensate for the irregular, elliptical orbit of the Moon around the Earth.

Mathematician, Tony Freeth, said that if the Antikythera Mechanism hadn’t been discovered when it was, in 1900, no one would possibly believe that it could exist, because it’s so sophisticated… “An ancient Greek scientist had done a truly remarkable thing. He’d found a way, using bronze gearwheels, to track the complex movements of the Moon and probably all the planets as well. It was a mechanism of truly staggering genius… It’s an incredible puzzle, probably one of the most fiendish puzzles in history. We had no confidence, ourselves, that we would actually be able to solve it.”

And Astronomer, Mike Edmunds, adds: You’re just amazed by the quality of the workmanship. And then, suddenly, you look and you see there are tiny Greek characters engraved into the actual metal, itself. The shock they must have had when they first saw this and saw these gearwheels; they knew wooden gearwheels were used in Greek mills and so on, but nothing was known like these precision, metal-engineered gears.

Pointed out by the narrator is the fact that if it hadn’t been for the two storms in the Mediterranean—the first around 70 BC that sunk an overloaded Roman trading ship, carrying the precious mechanism; and the second in 1900 that drove a team of sponge divers to shelter off the island of Antikythera—the most important scientific discovery to emerge from Ancient Greece might have been lost forever. And it makes one wonder how much more awaits us at the bottom of the seas of the world!

Another excellent production by NOVA; includes English subtitles.

DVD – 60 Min. • $24.95 • 1-800-228-8381



NEW WORLD ORDER: A 6,000 Year History

Secret Society and The Matrix of Control


“Secrets of the New World Order are revealed like never before in this shocking feature film.” This is the way that the contents of this video is described on its cover. “Tragic events throughout history,” it says, “have been orchestrated behind closed doors. Unseen forces are united with a hidden agenda to manipulate governments, institutions, and all of the earth’s resources. Includes the history of the Secret Societies, Ancient Beliefs, and the Matrix of Control that has shaped human history for thousands of years. Also includes, for the first time, a documented history of the true birth of the Illuminati, and its affect on the world today.”

So, what does the “Illuminati” mean today? It has become ambiguous. It means different things to different people. “There is a multitude of different versions of what exactly the Illuminati is, but most researchers agree that the group consists mainly of the upper crust of the world’s financial and political elite. Generally, It’s used as a catch-all term to describe the One Percenters, the oligarchs, the plutocrats, or the ruling class whose combined wealth and power influence every aspect of our daily lives,” wrote Tom Hidell of

Author Jim Marrs adds, “A growing number of the public today are waking up to the fact that a virtual handful of international bankers and financiers, the ones who set the rules for the world’s financial institutions and interest rates, control the global economy and, hence, most governments. But it was as the Bavarian Illuminati that, for the first time in modern history, ‘enlightened’ men, who believed themselves superior to the masses, created a unified movement against church and state to overthrow the old order and establish control over entire nations.”

This documentary covers much of the history of Freemasonry and the Illuminati, and its purported bloodlines, etc. Marrs points out, though, that: Founding Father Thomas Jefferson perhaps echoed the earliest and truest intentions of the Freemasons and even the Illuminati when he wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seen most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” But, states, Marrs, as in so many instances in the past, basic truths such as these are manipulated and twisted by power-hungry individuals, members of secret societies, and hypocrites who speak the language but practice something entirely different.

Whether or not one believes in conspiracy theories, one can appreciate this assemblage of information, as it is not ‘preachy,’ and contains a good amount of historical fact. And there will be those who can view this type of documentary with the belief that there is more than just physicality at work—see what it does for you.

DVD – 102 Min. • $24.95 • 1-800-228-8381

By Marsha Oaks