Mandelbrot died.

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The Reaper
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Mandelbrot died.

Postby The Reaper » Sat Oct 16, 2010 10:09 pm UTC

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/us/17mandelbrot.html
Benoît B. Mandelbrot, a maverick mathematician who developed an innovative theory of roughness and applied it to physics, biology, finance and many other fields, died on Thursday in Cambridge, Mass. He was 85.

His death was caused by pancreatic cancer, his wife, Aliette, said. He had lived in Cambridge.

Dr. Mandelbrot coined the term “fractal” to refer to a new class of mathematical shapes whose uneven contours could mimic the irregularities found in nature.

“Applied mathematics had been concentrating for a century on phenomena which were smooth, but many things were not like that: the more you blew them up with a microscope the more complexity you found,” said David Mumford, a professor of mathematics at Brown University. “He was one of the primary people who realized these were legitimate objects of study.”

In a seminal book, “The Fractal Geometry of Nature,” published in 1982, Dr. Mandelbrot defended mathematical objects that he said others had dismissed as “monstrous” and “pathological.” Using fractal geometry, he argued, the complex outlines of clouds and coastlines, once considered unmeasurable, could now “be approached in rigorous and vigorous quantitative fashion.”

For most of his career, Dr. Mandelbrot had a reputation as an outsider to the mathematical establishment. From his perch as a researcher for I.B.M. in New York, where he worked for decades before accepting a position at Yale University, he noticed patterns that other researchers may have overlooked in their own data, then often swooped in to collaborate.

“He knew everybody, with interests going off in every possible direction,” Professor Mumford said. “Every time he gave a talk, it was about something different.”

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.”

In the 1950s, Dr. Mandelbrot 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.

Over nearly seven decades, working with dozens of scientists, Dr. Mandelbrot contributed to the fields of geology, medicine, cosmology and engineering. He used the geometry of fractals to explain how galaxies cluster, how wheat prices change over time and how mammalian brains fold as they grow, among other phenomena.

His influence has also been felt within the field of geometry, where he was one of the first to use computer graphics to study mathematical objects like the Mandelbrot set, which was named in his honor.

“I decided to go into fields where mathematicians would never go because the problems were badly stated,” Dr. Mandelbrot said. “I have played a strange role that none of my students dare to take.”

Benoît B. Mandelbrot (he added the middle initial himself, though it does not stand for a middle name) was born on Nov. 20, 1924, to a Lithuanian Jewish family in Warsaw. In 1936 his family fled the Nazis, first to Paris and then to the south of France, where he tended horses and fixed tools.

After the war he enrolled in the École Polytechnique in Paris, where his sharp eye compensated for a lack of conventional education. His career soon spanned the Atlantic. He earned a master’s degree in aeronautics at the California Institute of Technology, returned to Paris for his doctorate in mathematics in 1952, then went on to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., for a postdoctoral degree under the mathematician John von Neumann.

After several years spent largely at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, Dr. Mandelbrot was hired by I.B.M. in 1958 to work at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. Although he worked frequently with academic researchers and served as a visiting professor at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it was not until 1987 that he began to teach at Yale, where he earned tenure in 1999.

Dr. Mandelbrot received more than 15 honorary doctorates and served on the board of many scientific journals, as well as the Mandelbrot Foundation for Fractals. Instead of rigorously proving his insights in each field, he said he preferred to “stimulate the field by making bold and crazy conjectures” — and then move on before his claims had been verified. This habit earned him some skepticism in mathematical circles.

“He doesn’t spend months or years proving what he has observed,” said Heinz-Otto Peitgen, a professor of mathematics and biomedical sciences at the University of Bremen. And for that, he said, Dr. Mandelbrot “has received quite a bit of criticism.”

“But if we talk about impact inside mathematics, and applications in the sciences,” Professor Peitgen said, “he is one of the most important figures of the last 50 years.”

Besides his wife, Dr. Mandelbrot is survived by two sons, Laurent, of Paris, and Didier, of Newton, Mass., and three grandchildren.

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.”

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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby headprogrammingczar » Sat Oct 16, 2010 11:43 pm UTC

He gave a pretty epic talk on TED way back when it first started up. He was old as hell.
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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby poxic » Sun Oct 17, 2010 12:02 am UTC

My favourite Mandelbrot fractal video. I occasionally watch this again, and every time I do I find myself in some weird kind of altered state of mind when it's done. It's like my pattern-seeking drive gets overstimulated to the point of intoxication. Whee!
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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby Shivahn » Sun Oct 17, 2010 12:53 am UTC

poxic wrote:My favourite Mandelbrot fractal video. I occasionally watch this again, and every time I do I find myself in some weird kind of altered state of mind when it's done. It's like my pattern-seeking drive gets overstimulated to the point of intoxication. Whee!


Oh my. After watching just a few minutes of that and skipping to near the end, I looked at my wall.

The wall pinched in on itself. It was creepy.

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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby Jplus » Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:11 am UTC

Shivahn wrote:
poxic wrote:My favourite Mandelbrot fractal video. I occasionally watch this again, and every time I do I find myself in some weird kind of altered state of mind when it's done. It's like my pattern-seeking drive gets overstimulated to the point of intoxication. Whee!


Oh my. After watching just a few minutes of that and skipping to near the end, I looked at my wall.

The wall pinched in on itself. It was creepy.

Yeah I have that too (still, a minute after I watched the entire clip). The very strongly activating and ongoing outward motion causes your V1 centers to habituate so stronly that they detect inward motion where the stimulus is absent. When you move your eyes (which I did, after a few minutes, to look at the title of the video), this creates a very psychedelic wavelike motion. Adding to this the hypnotizing feel of the video... for a moment I thought I was having the first trip of my life.
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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:17 am UTC

I know you can find the autobiographies of various famous scientists pretty easily, but i always enjoy the hell out of reading about the histories of some of these people. I admit I didn't even associate 'Mandelbrot' set to be the dude who coined it, which is a weird bit of cognitive dissonance I ought to start getting over.
I actually associate it with the Blueman Group soundtrack, but that has the fractal set all over it anyhow...
Article wrote:“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.”

I swooned a little.
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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby Shivahn » Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:53 am UTC

Jplus wrote:
Shivahn wrote:
poxic wrote:My favourite Mandelbrot fractal video. I occasionally watch this again, and every time I do I find myself in some weird kind of altered state of mind when it's done. It's like my pattern-seeking drive gets overstimulated to the point of intoxication. Whee!


Oh my. After watching just a few minutes of that and skipping to near the end, I looked at my wall.

The wall pinched in on itself. It was creepy.

Yeah I have that too (still, a minute after I watched the entire clip). The very strongly activating and ongoing outward motion causes your V1 centers to habituate so stronly that they detect inward motion where the stimulus is absent. When you move your eyes (which I did, after a few minutes, to look at the title of the video), this creates a very psychedelic wavelike motion. Adding to this the hypnotizing feel of the video... for a moment I thought I was having the first trip of my life.


I feel like such a failure. I... knew that ><

You can achieve the same effect if you watch a waterfall for long enough. When you look away, the world will move up because if the habituation. Whee computational neurobio.

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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby bytbox » Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:57 am UTC

R.I.P.

"Mathematical porn" indeed. I wish /that/ had been the first result for "porn" on google yesterday... The least they can do is give him a good doodle..

(The death of some fool I've never heard of ("Barbara Billingsley" or something) is first hit on google news, with his recursiveness Benoit buried far below.)

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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby frezik » Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:57 am UTC

Shivahn wrote:
Jplus wrote:
Shivahn wrote:
poxic wrote:My favourite Mandelbrot fractal video. I occasionally watch this again, and every time I do I find myself in some weird kind of altered state of mind when it's done. It's like my pattern-seeking drive gets overstimulated to the point of intoxication. Whee!


Oh my. After watching just a few minutes of that and skipping to near the end, I looked at my wall.

The wall pinched in on itself. It was creepy.

Yeah I have that too (still, a minute after I watched the entire clip). The very strongly activating and ongoing outward motion causes your V1 centers to habituate so stronly that they detect inward motion where the stimulus is absent. When you move your eyes (which I did, after a few minutes, to look at the title of the video), this creates a very psychedelic wavelike motion. Adding to this the hypnotizing feel of the video... for a moment I thought I was having the first trip of my life.


I feel like such a failure. I... knew that ><

You can achieve the same effect if you watch a waterfall for long enough. When you look away, the world will move up because if the habituation. Whee computational neurobio.


And watching Rock Band/Guitar Hero played for too long.
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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby Jessica » Sun Oct 17, 2010 2:33 am UTC

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ES-yKOYaXq0 Mandelbrot set by jonathan coulton. You will be missed Mandelbrot.
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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby Levi » Sun Oct 17, 2010 2:36 am UTC

Coulton's song about his fractal is pretty cool.

EDIT: Ninja'd. Hrrumph.

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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby StNowhere » Sun Oct 17, 2010 3:47 am UTC

bytbox wrote:R.I.P.

"Mathematical porn" indeed. I wish /that/ had been the first result for "porn" on google yesterday... The least they can do is give him a good doodle..

(The death of some fool I've never heard of ("Barbara Billingsley" or something) is first hit on google news, with his recursiveness Benoit buried far below.)


Shit, Barbara Billingsley died? Now who will we turn to when we need a Jive translator?

Mandlebrot certainly made the world of mathematics, and all science by extension of the work, a more interesting place. Proof that the course of true math never did run smooth.

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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby iPunchRaptors » Sun Oct 17, 2010 4:38 am UTC

RIP, indeed. No matter how crooked the line of your life is, no matter how recursive the fractal pattern, it can only approach infinity, never equal it.

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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby The Reaper » Sun Oct 17, 2010 4:51 am UTC

iPunchRaptors wrote:RIP, indeed. No matter how crooked the line of your life is, no matter how recursive the fractal pattern, it can only approach infinity, never equal it.

Wouldnt a perfect circle be infinity?

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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby iPunchRaptors » Sun Oct 17, 2010 4:56 am UTC

I meant to refer to Mandelbrot's quote:
“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.”

So I meant 'a line with a beginning and end point'.

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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Oct 17, 2010 6:57 am UTC

Nah, because any two points on the edge of the Mandelbrot Set (or the Koch Curve or any number of other fractals) really do have infinite length between them.
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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby SlyReaper » Sun Oct 17, 2010 8:47 am UTC

A prestigious mathematician has died. I guess *sunglasses* his number was up.

Sorry.

Very sad news anyway, the man was a legend.
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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby The Reaper » Sun Oct 17, 2010 6:06 pm UTC


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Re: Mandelbrot died.

Postby Rowadanr » Thu Oct 21, 2010 10:37 pm UTC

I spent a while playing Jonathan Coulton's song about him and touring various parts of the set with my viewer, as a sort of short memorial. Mandelbrot will very definitely be missed
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