Feeds

Benoit Mandelbrot, father of fractals, dies at 85

An interdimensional explorer

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Benoit Mandelbrot, the father of fractals, died on October 14 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the age of 85.

The cause of death was pancreatic cancer, according to an obituary in the New York Times.

Mandelbrot fled Poland ahead of Nazi occupation when he was 11 and moved with his family to Paris. He studied at the Ecole Polytechnique under the mathematicians Gaston Julia, whose Julia set is a function of complex dynamics closely affiliated with a set of fractals now called the Mandelbrot set, and Paul Pierre Levy, an expert in probability theory.

After World War II, Mandelbrot got a Masters degree in aeronautical engineering at the California Institute of Technology and a PhD in mathematical sciences from the University of Paris; he did a stint at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton University after that, where he was sponsored by none other than John von Neumann.

In 1958, after a few years in academia, Mandelbrot became a mathematician at IBM's TJ Watson Research Center, a post he held for 32 years before retiring as an IBM Fellow and taking a teaching position at Yale University a decade ago.

Just as personal computers were going mainstream in the early 1980s, Mandelbrot put together his now famous book, The Fractal Geometry of Nature, which mainstreamed the idea of fractional dimensions and, more importantly, illustrated these fractals, as Mandelbrot called them, with hypnotic graphics. (I just bought a copy of it online for my kids to get ahead of all of you.) The Mandelbrot subset of the Julia set, seen below, is probably the most famous image in mathematics, akin to the most famous equation in physics, E=mc2.

Classic Mandelbrot Set

The classic Mandelbrot set image

You can't help but think about an infinite progression-regression multiverse looking at these images, wondering if these fractal images, with their layers of self-similarity as you zoom in and out of the image, with kinks of uniqueness as you bend the underlying equations this way and that, suggest something fundamental and strange about the universe. This is so much better than a lava lamp:

Seahorse Mandelbrot Set

If you want to get lost for a half hour or so on company time today in honor of Mandelbrot, explore the fun people are having pondering 3D Mandelbrot sets (well, somewhere between the second and third dimensions, surely?) here and there. If you are looking for a real trip, check out all of the fractal generation tools available here. El Reg readers will no doubt have better sources of images and tools for fractals, so take a gander at the comments once they start coming in. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.