Sunday, October 17, 2010

In memoriam: Benoit Mandelbrot

I remember the 1980s and the book CHAOS, and the amazing fractals therein.  The most famous was (is?) the Mandelbrot fractal, discovered by and named after Benoit Mandelbrot, who died yesterday.

From the New York Times article:
Dr. Mandelbrot traced his work on fractals to a question he first encountered as a young researcher: how long is the coast of Britain? The answer, he was surprised to discover, depends on how closely one looks. On a map an island may appear smooth, but zooming in will reveal jagged edges that add up to a longer coast. Zooming in further will reveal even more coastline. “Here is a question, a staple of grade-school geometry that, if you think about it, is impossible,” Dr. Mandelbrot told The New York Times earlier this year in an interview. “The length of the coastline, in a sense, is infinite.”

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