21 October 2010
While at college I took a class from this guy. He invented fractal geometry. His name was Benoit Mandelbrot. A few days ago, he died. I remember it being said that he did not know how to use computers. The class was a gut mathematics course. My purpose in taking it was to fulfill a math & science requirement. If my recollection is correct, I almost failed.
But who can argue with the logic for his anti-computer stance? The greatest proof of his theories was the shape of a coastline:
In the 1950s, he proposed a simple but radical way to quantify the crookedness of such an object by assigning it a “fractal dimension,” an insight that has proved useful well beyond the field of cartography.
It was this insight that eventually led him to geometrical figures familiar to psychedelic drug users and Grateful Dead fans, figures like this:
…and, more familiarly, this…
…and, most of all, this…
Once again, he did not like computers. I’d be skeptical about the utility of computers, too, if my ideas manifested themselves as a vegetable:
Hugs Benoit. I’m sorry I almost flunked out of your class. You’re an inspiration:
When asked to look back on his career, Dr. Mandelbrot compared his own trajectory to the rough outlines of clouds and coastlines that drew him into the study of fractals in the 1950s. “If you take the beginning and the end, I have had a conventional career,” he said, referring to his prestigious appointments in Paris and at Yale. “But it was not a straight line between the beginning and the end. It was a very crooked line.”
Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis