Last night I dragged Venera and her, and now our, friend Anahita to the Museum of Science to the first in their Lectureology series. To kick things off, they brought in mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot to talk about roughness, cauliflower, and fractals. I’m not sure he did any of these things. He did manage to tell us just how great he knows himself to be more than a few times, however.
I was fairly shocked just how quickly he was to dismiss, mostly be flagrant omission, the other “fathers of fractals.” True, Mandelbrot did coin the phrase. He told us so three times in less than one hour. He was not, as he claimed last night to be, the first one to consider roughness. Julia, famed for his aptly named Julia sets, was Mandelbrot’s own teacher. In fact, the Mandelbrot set is a catalogue of Julia sets. Of course we could throw in Douaday, Hubbard, and Fatou while we’re at it. Then, there was another branch of complex dynamics going on which resulted in Bers slices, the Maskit slice, Fucshian groups and all that. I happen to think that the other school made cooler pictures. (Compare the limit set of a Schottky group [top] with the Julia set [bottom].) The point is Mandelbrot didn’t go it entirely alone.
Perhaps the only thing I took away from my tenth grade English teacher Mr. Tony Baxter is this: when writing a story, you can’t just tell the reader what’s going on. It is incumbent upon the author to show the reader what’s going on. Mandelbrot should’ve taken Tony’s class. He’s still a teller, not a shower. And then, not even a good one. He didn’t once tell us what the Mandelbrot set is, let alone a fractal. I do remember his throwing around the term Hausdorff dimension somewhere in the middle of his talk. But he didn’t spend nearly as long on that as he did some honorary doctorate he received from somewhere in Germany.
Verena and Anahita and I left for the food court at the Galleria in the middle of the question and answer session, just after he was explaining how much metereology he knows and named-dropped infinite dependence.
At least we got into the Museum for free.