Chances are you’ve seen one and you just didn’t realize it. Fractals are most recognized as a series of circular shapes with a border surrounded by jagged “tail-like” objects. NOVA’s episode, “Fractals: Hunting the Hidden Dimension” is a quite interesting fifty minute look at the topic.

The program, aimed at the average viewer does a fine job of explaining the background of fractals, first by beginning with the story of Pixar co-founder, Loren Carpenter’s work at Boeing, developing 3D terrain from scratch using fractals. From there the program starts at the beginning with an introduction to Benoit Mandelbrot and his revolutionary work. The explanations are full of solid factual information but never talk above the level of a viewer who has some understanding of basic mathematical principles. Once the concept is presented the program spends the rest of the time showing how prevalent the fractal is in life.

For a program about a mathematical concept, “Fractals” is very engaging, showing how the process was applied to special effects as far back as the Genesis planet from “Star Trek II” all the way to the spectacular finale on Mustafar in “Star Wars: Episode III.” I found myself astonished at how fractals were the source of the lava in constant motion and action during the Obi-Wan/Anakin fight. What is more amazing is when the program delves into practical applications such as cell phone antennas, and eventually the human body.

For the average person who enjoys watching NOVA or other science related programs, even on a sporadic basis, “Fractals” will prove to be a very worthwhile experience. The program is well produced, integrating talking head interviews (including some with Mandelbrot himself) with standard “in the field” footage. The structure of the program is very logical and never finds itself jumping around without direction. In simplest terms, this is a program as elegant as the designs it focuses on.