Within the Jurassic Park novel, in between various chapters, we see inset images of a fractal being drawn. Specifically, this is the Dragon Fractal. I'll spare the details about this specific fractal but, suffice to say, we see the first iteration early in the book, and after every chapter (or possibly 2 or 3, I can't recall) we see another inset of the next iteration.

I also seem to recall that under each iteration there might have been a quote from Ian Malcolm, often regarding chaos theory since it is one of the central themes of the story.

I was 16 when I read the novel shortly after the film was released and I've not picked it up since then. I recall being fascinated with the fractal images because I'd thumbed through the book and seen them before I even began reading. This made me curious about the fractals purpose, but to my recollection, the inclusion of the fractal was never really explained and I recall being a bit frustrated about not understanding why it was there to begin with. Yes, it was a neat set of mathematics, but I failed to see it's purpose.

So, why did Crichton include the drawing of the fractals in the book? What purpose did the illustration serve within the story? It might be obvious but as a 16 year old, and since then, I've never figured out the purpose for including the images in a story about dinosaurs "finding a way" to survive when they had been engineered to be incapable of reproduction.

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    It's to symbolise chaotic patterns
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 13:10
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    Fractals and chaos are very closely related, and were often lumped together in popular discussions of mathematics around the time the book came out.
    – Buzz
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 13:12
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    Here's an interesting video on the matter: youtube.com/watch?v=wCyC-K_PnRY
    – Mithical
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 13:13
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    "“No,” Malcolm said. “It's the only way to look at things. At least, the only way that is true to reality. You see, the fractal idea of sameness carries within it an aspect of recursion, a kind of doubling back on itself, which means that events are unpredictable. That they can change suddenly, and without warning.”"
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 13:14
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    @RLH He's not a wizard, just has a lot of skill with Google and Ctrl+F ;-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented May 31, 2019 at 6:26

2 Answers 2


I have not found anything from Crichton himself, but the theory here makes sense to me.

Each chapter (or iteration as the book called it) was found to have a seemingly meaningless illustration of some lines and squares adjunct to a quotation from one the book’s characters.

The First Chapter/First Iteration contained the above image with the quote: “At the earliest drawings of the fractal curve, few clues to the underlying mathematical structure will be seen.” Ian Malcolm.

With each subsequent chapter, the quotations begin to resemble the events in the story – the idea of unpredictability; chaos theory – and the illustrations become more elaborate – and eerily reptilian.

So basically, it's about simple systems that rapidly become more complex as we look more closely at them. In the case of the Park, more complex in a deadly fashion.


I interpreted it as a metaphor for DNA; like a fractal, it keeps duplicating itself to build a bigger version of something (organism).

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. I'm not sure you're clear on what a fractal is; a fractal is self-similar, while DNA isn't in the same sense.
    – DavidW
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 4:34

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