Oct18

# Carnival of Mandelbrot

Benoît Mandelbrot 1924-2010

I don’t know when I first saw or heard of a fractal. Maybe it was in sixth form or as a first year undergraduate. But like so many others I was intrigued by them. The man who invented them has died aged 85. Here is my tribute to Benoît Mandelbrot.

First here are some obituaries (I’ll update as more appear.)

New York Times

Telegraph

Boston Globe

Guardian

If you don’t know what the fuss is all about, then watch this “fractal zoom” video. Don’t watch it for too long or else it will do strange things to your mind.

You can see Mandelbrot in action giving a talk about his work at TED.

As an undergraduate I tried to read Mandelbrot’s book The Fractal Geometry of Nature.

The Fractal Geometry of Nature

The book was quite a hard read at the time but I got the main points principally because the book was written to be read.
In my second year I used my computer to draw a Mandelbrot set. I had learned how to make fractals from the excellent book Beauty of Fractals by Heinz-Otto Peitgen and Peter Richter.

The Beauty of Fractals

I wrote a program and set it running on my computer before going out for the night. The program was so slow that when I returned much later I had only half a Mandelbrot set. Even this was fantastic though. I had my very first fractal!

The Mandelbrot set became an emblem at the end of the 80s and was reproduced all over the world, featured in pop videos and was generally ubiquitous. This made it very unpopular with many mathematicians. I can remember when I was a student at Warwick one of the lecturers becoming extremely angry about fractals. For him they were contentless mathematics. There was also a fair bit of envy I guess. After all, you go to all the trouble to learn some hard mathematics involving twistors and such and then along comes some guy who has discovered something new and exciting in the quadratic map.

If you want to make your own fractal pictures, then you can go to Robert Devaney‘s page for the Mandelbrot Set Explorer.

There are plenty of other pages out there on the web for investigating fractals. These stand as tribute to a man who has inspired so many.