Click the image to hear the song & see video of zooming fractal patterns.

I was introduced to Jonathan Coulton’s music in 2007 at a coffee house in Ferndale, Michigan where my friend Norm Andresen was the emcee during open mic night. This song wasn’t among the ones that were played that night, but the intelligence and humor I heard in the lyrics encouraged me to check out his web site and do some exploring.

The Mandelbrot Set quickly became one of my favorites. I listened to it over and over–partly because of the catchy tune and lyrics–but also because I found the underlying story and thinking behind Benoit Mandelbrot’s thinking to be so compelling. I am not a mathematician by any stretch of the imagination, but watching the zooming image of the fractal video included to the right, I see the spirituality and meaning behind “making order out of chaos.”

By taking a different perspective (higher or lower), we see the levels of complexity are the same, yet look different depending on exactly what point of reference we take in the “zoom” process. All perceptions of what’s going on with the image are at any time true and accurate, but ever changing, depending on where the viewer is in space time.

His disdain for pure mathematics and his unique geometrical insights
Left him well equipped to face those demons down
He saw that infinite complexity could be described by simple rules
Used his giant brain and he turned the game around
And he looked below the storm saw a vision in his head
A bulbous pointy form
Picked his pencil up and he wrote his secret down

Just take a point called C in the complex plane
Let Z1 be C squared plus C
And Z2 is Z1 squared plus C
And Z3 is Z2 squared plus C and so on
If the series of Z’s should always stay
Close to Z and never trend away
That point is in the Mandelbrot Set

Lyrics (adapted slightly) from “The Mandelbrot Set” by Jonathan Coulton