Monday, October 25, 2010

Math: Benoit Mandelbrot

Not many people can say they've added a word to the language of the world. Not many of us can create a word that sticks. Certainly not many can come up with a word that somehow captures complicated subjects and makes them seem accessible. Benoit Mandelbrot did that with the word fractal.

The word invokes complex and wondrous pictures. Colours exploding on computer screens and created by simple mathematics applied with the repetitive power of computers. The word hints at how the images are self similar at different scales - you can see smaller (or fractional) versions of larger objects as you zoom in. It's a word that sounds good and works well.

Benoit Mandelbrot passed away at the age of 85 ten days ago. His legacy in the world of math and finance is an impressive one. But to many of us he will be remembered as the person who gave the world fractals.

Let him tell you about it in his own words.

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