Mandelbrot Set

The Cascading Beauty of Fractals in C. S. Lewis, Scripture & Art

A classic four-frame Peanuts comic strip from 1960 begins with a panel showing the character Lucy van Pelt looking off to the side and saying, "That's really kind of disillusioning." In the second frame, Charlie Brown walks up to her and asks, "What's the matter?" In the third frame, as Lucy and Charlie both look at something off-screen, Lucy replies, "Snoopy isn't as smart as I thought he was." In the final panel, Snoopy, in the foreground, is looking down with pursed lips at a book lying open on the floor. In the background, Lucy says to Charlie Brown, "He moves his lips when he reads!"

The wry disconnect between Lucy's notion of intelligence and reading ability, given Snoopy's canine status, is palpable. She seems to discern only one level of awareness. But I would suggest that this sort of disconnect is wide-ranging in real life, and ironically even can be found among scientists and mathematicians, whose goal, almost by definition, is to "step back" in order to see multiple levels from "outside" the confines of a particular level. All of us can at times be as seemingly clueless and unaware of different levels as Lucy is in the comic strip.

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Stanley E. Anderson holds a degree in mathematics and has worked in data analysis, IT, and quality assurance in the aerospace industry. He and his wife are converts from Anglicanism to the Catholic Church.

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