Fractals, chaos, and religion

Fractals, Chaos, and Religion in a Nutshell

by Tom Seddon

(I hereby promise that the following explanation has only three numbers and absolutely NO MATH.  tes)


What is a Fractal?

A fractal is a new kind of geometric shape which no matter how greatly magnified always looks surprisingly like the original shape, that is to say, it is “self-similar at all scales.”  Curious, but “so what?”  Well, first, nature employs fractals to build all sorts of things, and second, fractals are closely related to “deterministic Chaos.”  And some would say, Fractals and Chaos together cast a new light on dusty old religion.

First things first:


How to Make a Fractal.

Fractals are created by starting with a simple shape and then changing the shape by a simple rule and then repeating that rule infinitely.


Here are the steps in creating a classic fractal--the Koch Snowflake:

Start with an equilateral triangle,

Insert smaller copies of the triangle at the center of each side,

Insert still smaller copies of the triangle in each of the now 12 sides,

Calm Down Horiuchi!

"Entertainment News" Vs. the terror at Trolley Square.

On Monday night, February 12, 2007, a distressed young man walked into a Salt Lake City shopping mall (developed from historic trolley car barns) and began randomly shooting shoppers with a shotgun.  He also had a handgun and a backpack and bandolier full of ammunition.  He was intent on mass murder. 

He shot nine people, killing five, before the heroic actions of an off-duty police officer and the prompt response of Salt Lake City police ended his homicidal stroll in a hail of bullets.  The first 911 call was received at 6:44 PM and Sulejman Talovic was dead by 6:50 PM.

Despite the fact that shootings at shopping malls are not that rare-there were three in the US last December alone including one on Christmas Eve in Florida-this recent shooting has attracted much attention because of its particular actor.

Sulejman Talovic was a child refugee from Bosnia who escaped Srebrenica with his family just before the infamous massacre. He was a Muslim and the blogosphere has lit up with the supposed implications of this “terrorist act” by a “militant muslim.”  The conspiracy theory buffs have pounced on this story like a duck on a June bug.

St. Paul's Tomb

A Just-For-Fun Survey of the Web-Accessible Documentation Relating to Saint Paul’s Tomb in the Papal Basilica of San Paolo Fuori le Mura in Rome

Redacted by Tom Seddon

A local news story suggested that St. Paul's tomb, long lost to history, had recently and unexpectedly been discovered in Rome.  I found this surprising since I had always thought that St. Paul's tomb lay under the altar of the great basilica patriarchal church of St. Paul's Outside the Walls in Rome.  Indeed, I understood that the Emperor Constantine had constructed the first basilica in the early 4th Century just as he constructed St. Peter's on the Vatican Hill and the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

Out of curiosity, I began searching web sites for reasonably factual documentation on St. Paul, his death, his entombment, and the Christian memorials constructed to St. Paul.  Before I realized it, I had collected over 70 pages of information!  I present it here as web pages or as a downloadable MS Word document.  The links are listed at the end of this log entry.

Space News Flash

Space News Flash!  NASA Mars Orbiter Photographs Spirit and Vikings on the Ground

“New images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show three additional NASA spacecraft that have landed on Mars: the Spirit rover active on the surface since January 2004 and the two Viking landers that successfully reached the surface in 1976.”

How cool is this…. Check out the new pics from Mars!


Neat photos and, of course, it’s good to know that no one’s carted stuff off in the last 30 years, but the real mission here is to have this new Mars orbiter photograph some things (and their shadows) of which we know the exact dimensions and shape in order to get perfect calibration of its camera for different perspectives, filters, sun angles, etc.  Only then can NASA photograph new prospective landing sites for the next rover-type mission and be able to tell the precise shape and size of the boulders, the tilt of the slopes, the width and depth of gullies, etc.  And all from Martian orbit! 

On Inventing World Peace.

It’s not a globe; it’s a box.

Wednesday, 8 November 2006, 12:30 p.m.

I saw on the news the other night that the M/S Emma Maersk arrived in England on her maiden voyage from China.   This seemingly un-newsworthy event set off a mental declension.

It all starts with hit-the-mother-lode greed.  Haven’t you ever wished you held the patent on the paperclip?   or maybe PostIt Notes?  I have.  I do.  I dream of striking it rich with one neuronic burst of brilliance. 

I’m not talking cold fusion here.  I may be greedy but I’m not stupid. Call me “Lazy” but I have no interest in working as hard as Thomas Edison promised.  Invention-wise, I’ll willingly settle for a patent on an elegantly simple and cheap device that quickly worms into everyone’s life one way or another, sooner or later.  

Indispensable—that’s my ticket.  My role model here is one of Tricky Dick Nixon’s best pals Robert Abplanalp. Abplanalp, still not a household name, but my kind of inventor.  He’s made a fortune on the little push valve on the ubiquitous aerosol spray can.  I think of Robert every time I pick up a can of ReddiWip or EasyCheese.

Reflections on Challenger at +20 Years.

Thursday, 8 November 2006, 7:30 p.m.

The following piece was first published in the Alamogordo Daily News on January 27, 1991.  The author's sentiments expressed about the U. S. space program have changed little.  The formatting is as published in the newspaper.

Everyone remembers Jan. 28, 1986, at 9:39 a.m.

by Tom Seddon

Special to the Daily News

Calamities sear an image into our soul as surely as hot iron brands our flesh.  Our shocked consciousness desperately grabs a fix on reality.

“We have no downlink.” – Mission Control.

Thus, I will always recall vividly Jan. 28, 1986, at 9:39 a.m., when the shuttle Challenger exploded.

I was in my conference period at Mid High and had just stepped outside into a beautiful winter’s day.  The sky was a sweeping blue dome.

A colleague broke the news, adding, “Wasn’t this the one with that teacher on board?”

A moment of incredulity was followed by an overpowering feeling of personal loss.  For some minutes, I simply could not function, but only grieve.

Post-Reunion Musings.

Post-Reunion Special Report.

Thursday, 19 October 2006, 2:30 p.m.

Today’s mail brought a flyer from my alumni association expressing “profound pleasure” at the results of my university class’s 40th anniversary fund raising drive.  The results were rather astonishing. Seventy-five percent of my class, 498 folks, gave almost $6.5 million bucks.  An average gift of $12,903.  Most of my college colleagues have done quite well for themselves apparently.  The news of my class’s exceptional generosity did not trigger warm fuzzy nostalgia.  It put me in a bit of a funk.  Forty years have passed and though scars may fade, they never disappear.  I scanned the list of donor names.  Not looking for mine, of course, I didn’t contribute this time and my infrequent gifts of $20 or $40 designated to the fencing team pale in comparison to the mighty cash machine my class has become.  Naturally, my paltry giving history has not deterred my alma mater from seasonal dunning campaigns.  I forgive them; they are ignorant of my finances.  I just might have millions stashed away.

Sixty Years under a Mushroom Cloud

Wednesday, 15 November 2006, 11:30 p.m.

The following piece was first published in the Alamogordo (N.M.) Daily News on Sunday, October 14, 1984, p 16-a.

A trek to trinity: reflections

by Tom Seddon

“We weren’t really prepared … ,”admitted Robert Krohn, searching for words to express what he had experienced nearly 40 years ago in the pre-dawn vastness of the Jornada del Muerto.  At 5:30 a.m. Mountain War Time, July 16, 1945, an intense flash of light as brilliant as the desert’s sun in high summer signaled the detonation, and immediately, a red, writhing ball of flames sprouted from the desert, quickly fading to the billowing clouds of a dull grey mushroom.

Mr. Krohn remembers, “It was a thrilling moment,” but reveals that his most memorable feelings, mingled with awe and shock, were those of relief that the device actually worked!  Mr. Krohn, then a very junior physicist, all of 25 years old that summer of 1945, was speaking at the annual Trinity Site Open House, Saturday, Oct. 6, 1984.  He shared the platform, a flat bed Army trailer placed adjacent to the pylon of lava rock marking Ground Zero, with a full-size mock-up of the weapon that destroyed Nagasaki less than a month after the test; the weapon whose lethally successful design was so awesomely verified at Trinity Site.

Words! Mere Words! Was there anything so real as words? - Dorian Gray