Saturday, 16 October 2010

Coastwalk , Memories , Personal , Tech

Benoît Mandelbrot

Farewell then to another inspirational mathematician.


For much of my sixth form years I filled my spare time exploring the world of fractals. At first on paper before coding generators in Turbo Pascal on our RM Nimbus computer at home, then finally using the Fractint software (a treasure I brought back from an open day a UCL).

For first Christmas after I gave Dad a photograph of a moonscape I'd generated; it hung in his office for many years to come. (It was a cheap alternative to the hugely expensive prints being offered for sale in a shop behind Portobello Road that was dedicated to fractals.) A few months later my college invited Benoît Mandelbrot - the man who coined the term "fractal" - to give a guest lecture. Dad and I were both excited to be going.

Fractals were an important watershed for me: a connection between art, science and faith; a moment when software became "play"; a transition towards adulthood where my father an I shared a time of learning.

Of course later the notion of fractal geometry would hold another resonance: in one way my coastwalk is all about answering Mandelbrot's question of the length of the coastline of Great Britain.

So today's news is an opportunity to pause and reflect: this particular branch of maths has hooked me deeper than any other, and for that I am grateful.

Posted by pab at 19:51 | Comments will be back later in the year. Please email me instead!