Benoit B. Mandelbrot

Benoît Mandelbrot at the EPFL, on the 14h of M...

Benoit B. Mandelbrot

(I am trying to post this under my Asides page.  Not having much luck.  I will need to learn how that is done.)

I want to briefly mention the death of Benoit B. Mandelbrot.  I owe my interest in Mandelbrot to Michael VandenHeuvel who was an associate professor when I was in graduate school at Arizona State University.  It is hard to explain “my interest” in Dr. Mandelbrot.  Perhaps I have more of an ongoing preoccupation or awareness of his theory and the Mandelbrot Set than anything else.  But I find myself thinking about these things all of the time.  In fact I have notes on this computer — quite a few of them — where I have toyed with ideas about applying what I do know about Mandelbrot to fiction, experience, memory, friendships, and more. 

I also want to write about Benoit B. Mandelbrot because I just learned tonight that he added his middle initial himself.  It does not stand for a middle name.  Why not?  I like that. 

U No Hu will want me to focus on sales.  (Sales is boring stuff.)  But I’ll ask U No Hu and anyone else with time to read this post to read the New York Times obituary and think about his quote about coastlines.  He used measuring coastlines as a way to illustrate part of his theory of fractals.  How long a coastline is really depends on how closely you look at the coastline.  As you look more and more closely, more and more irregularities appear to be measured.  He says that measuring a coastline is impossible and if you think about it he’s right:  “The length of the coastline, in a sense, is infinite.”  That’s great stuff.  If you look at California, the coast starts down there where Mexico ends and it ends some unknown (and infinite?) distance north of there at Oregon.  Could there be an infinite space between Mexico and Oregon…between a beginning and an end?  I kind of think so.  It makes sense to me.


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