Benoit Mandelbrot: A fitting tribute from “Edge”

via Edge 330.

“Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles,
and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.”

1924 — 2010

Long Beach, CA, February, 2010

To remember and to honor Benoit Mandelbrot,Edgeis pleased to present several pieces:

A remembrance on behalf of the Edge communityby Dimitar Sasselov;

Response to the 2005 EdgeQuestion,“What Do You Believe Is True Even Though You Cannot Prove It?”

“A Theory of Roughness: A Talk with Benoit Mandelbrot”, anEdge feature which previously ran on December 20, 2004

Response to theEdge-Serpentine Gallery collaboration“Formulae For The 21St Century: What Is Your Formula? Your Equation? Your Algorithm?”

Photograph: Budapest, 2003. “Benoit’s Dangerous Life”: A report on the photograph by George Dyson

“The Father of Long Tails”, a 2008 interview conducted in Paris by the Swiss art curator and Edgecollaborator Hans Ulrich Obrist, currently the Curator of the Serpentine Gallery in London.

Photograph: With John Brockman, Cambridge, Massachusetts, December 29, 2010

BENOIT MANDELBROT, who died on October 14th, was Sterling Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Yale University and IBM Fellow Emeritus (Physics) at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center. His books includeThe Fractal Geometry of Nature; Fractals and Scaling in Finance; and (with Richard L. Hudson)The (mis)Behavior of Markets.

Benoit Mandelbrot’s Edge Bio Page

Initial image of a Mandelbrot set zoom sequence with a continuously coloured environment

Dimitar Sasselov

We lost an intellectual giant. Benoit Mandelbrot was one of humankind’s preeminent mathematicians, yet he was much more than that. Mandelbrot bridged art and science with an ease that seemed unreal, and with a depth matched only by few in history, like da Vinci and Helmholtz.

What the physicist Helmholtz did 2 centuries ago for the realm of sound, by combining physics, physiology and musical esthetics and “trusting the ear”, Mandelbrot did for the visual realm by “trusting the eye”. Trusting the senses was for both of them the beginning, not the end of the discovery process. Both of them were giants of science and took painstaking care in proving their conjectures, which often took years. In the meantime, they were very open about the source of their intuition, which sometimes brought in skeptics — from science or from art. Ultimately, what they did was a true amalgam of art and science, creative in a deepest sense, and permanently changed the way we all perceive the world around us.

At the very start of Benoit Mandelbrot’s path of discovery was a simple question: “How long is the coast of Britain?” — what happens as you keep zooming in? — and he found that a coastline is essentially infinite, always revealing new features. My conversations with Benoit reminded me of a coastline, a beautiful coastline.

— Dimitar SasselovAstronomer, Harvard University;
Director, Harvard Origins of Life Initiativ

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