)A word coined by Benoit Mandelbrot in 1975 to describe shapes that are "self-similar" -- that is, shapes that look the same at different magnifications. To create a fractal, you start with a simple shape and duplicate it successively according to a set of fixed rules. Oddly enough, such a simple formula for creating shapes can produce very complex structures, some of which have a striking resemblance to objects that appear in the real world. For example, graphics designers use fractals to generate images of mountainous landscapes, coastlines, and flowers. In fact, many of the computer -generated images that appear in science fiction films utilize fractals.