Monday, October 18, 2010

R.I.P - Benoit Mandelbrot

"Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles,
and bark is not smooth,
nor does lightning travel in a straight line."
—Mandelbrot, in his introduction to The Fractal Geometry of Nature

Fractals. They are one of nature's most beautiful mysteries.

Benoit Mandelbrot, the French mathematician, was The Father of Fractals, for he coined the term and researched fractals as his life work. He died last week at the age of 85.

The above fractal is named for him. Nobel prizes aren't awarded posthumously, so we are saddened that he wasn't even nominated for one.

His seminal works, Fractals: Form, Chance and Dimension and The Fractal Geometry of Nature, were published in 1977 and 1982. In these, he argued that seemingly random mathematical shapes in fact followed a pattern if broken down into a single repeating shape. Mandelbrot developed fractals and the concept has been used to measure coastlines, clouds and other natural phenomena and had far-reaching effects in physics, biology and astronomy.

In words of praise from Nicholas Sarkozy, French President: "(Mandelbrot has a) powerful, original mind that never shied away from innovation and battering preconceived ideas. His work, which was entirely developed outside the main research channels, led to a modern information theory."

Honestly? For all of the "good science" that fractals can do, it is the ART of the fractal that spellbinds us.


Anonymous said...

WOW!! Awesome Pictures

Anonymous said...

Nice article :) Fractals are indeed amazing to look at and utilize.