Benoit Mandlebrot R.I.P.

October 25th, 2010

Alas, as of 14th Oct 2010 we no longer have Dr Benoit Mandlebrot. His passing reminded me of a time I saw him give a lecture back in 1999. It was Science Week at Cambridge University and Dr Mandlebrot was booked to speak. I was living in Cambridge but doing a PhD at KCL... I Left the lab in London early at around 15:00 and caught the train back to Cambridge. I hopped on my bike and peddled like crazy over to somewhere near Tennis Court Lane. I Dumped the bike, legged it to the doors - only to be told the lecture theater was full and they couldn't let anymore people in. Obviously I was not going to let this stop me! I backed away slowly and snuck around the back of the building. Noticing a couple of (presumably) student's walking along and asked them if they knew of a way into the lecture theatre. As luck would have it, they escorted me to a door that led into the lecture theatre - near the front, stage-right - and I was able to sneak in quietly to watch and listen.

Dr Mandlebrot gave a great presentation of the use of fractal geometry - demonstrating various CG mountain landscapes, Mandlebrot set crop circles and more serious stuff too. A part I remember vividly is the question section at the end. I asked Dr Mandlebrot what he recalled about the first time he had seen the Mandlebrot set plotted out. He recalled being in a basement of an IBM building about 1979 and watching a pixel by pixel computation of points in the Mandlebrot set... Much like my own mandlebrot set-plotting code running on a PII from many years ago [ahem]. I highly recomend the book 'The Fractal Geometry of Nature' to anyone for an eye-opening glimpse of the beauty of mathematics. R.I.P. Dr Mandlebrot.