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Wired and others are reporting that Benoît Mandelbrot, the mathematician and father of fractal geometry, has passed away, just shy of his 86th birthday. On GeekDad, Matt Blum writes:

I had the rare and amazing privilege of hearing Mandelbrot speak when he came to visit my high school about 20 years ago. Even at my science-and-technology high school, most of the students didn’t know much about Mandelbrot, but I’d been fascinated by fractals for years and had brought a copy of his seminal work The Fractal Geometry of Nature for him to autograph, and we chatted for a few minutes. I was a bit starstruck — I was 16 or 17 at the time — but I recall that he asked me what kind of fractal-related work I’d done, and showed genuine interest when I told him that I’d played around a lot with the Mandelbrot Set and some variations on the Sierpinski Gasket. In retrospect, I realize this could not possibly have been of much interest to him, but he took a few minutes to make me feel like an intelligent human being because a mathematical genius wanted to hear about what I was working on.

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Here’s a fun video for Jonathan Coulton’s song “Mandelbrot Set” by Pisut Wisessing:

As the lyrics to the song say: “He saw that infinite complexity could be described by simple rules.” And for that, and many other of his ideas and discoveries, he will be remember as a giant of science.

“He Gave Us Order Out of Chaos” — R.I.P. Benoît Mandelbrot, 1924-2010

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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