Benoit Mandelbrot.

The Limit Set of a Schottky Group

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.

An example of a Julia set

One thought on “Benoit Mandelbrot.

  1. This *is* from 2005 but is not outdated, nor irrelevant of me to reply to, now.

    >> He did manage to tell us just how great he knows himself to be more than a few times, however.

    Me: by the way, this is and always was normal for famous people and people with egos. R.I.P., Mr. Mandelbrot.

    >> 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 [snip] 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 with the Julia set.) The point is Mandelbrot didn’t go it entirely alone.

    Me: Who the heck is Julia? Raul Julia the actor? Your school is the “old school”. No one who is both literate and semi-educated has heard of those names.

    The point really was Mr. Mandelbrot not only didn’t go it alone but he was an
    academicaly based eccentric. It behooved him to be ecletic and at the same time
    get his work done outside of the mainstream — something your alma mater is
    really not known for.

    >> 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

    Me: perhaps it is because you are “the tell” here that you’re showing your hand w/o
    first checking into what you’re writing using facts. Mr. Mandelbrot was a good man
    and a great scholar. Don’t look at people in the moment or judge them for their
    perceived inter-personal weaknesses. By tell I mean dumping people’s last names
    so they can be grabbed up later.

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