Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Father of Fractals

Boundary of the dragon curve fractal (16th ite...Image via WikipediaBenoit Mandelbrot died on October 14, 2010 at age 85. I didn't read anything about it in the newspaper. I saw nothing on television news. I only found out by reading a blog on the Scientific American website. His wife said he died of pancreatic cancer. I should have thought the passing of such a great mind would have been more newsworthy, but it only seems to have appeared in numerous blogs. Perhaps his family preferred it that way.

Mandelbrot, known as the father of fractal geometry, was a mathematician who was able to combine mathematics, science, art, and nature. His formulas were genius; his fractals were used to describe mountains, coastlines, snow flakes, lightening, blood vessels, clusters of galaxies, and even cauliflower. Fractals have contributed to chaos theory, geology, medicine, cosmology, engineering, and were even featured in novels such as Jurassic Park.

If you would like to make a simple fractal (the kind found in Jurassic Park), simply take a strip of paper and fold it in half (the first iteration). Fold it in half again (the second iteration). Keep folding it in half. If you could keep doing this, you would eventually end up with the dragon fractal (the 16th iteration is pictured above). You can learn much more about this and other fractals at http://math.rice.edu/~lanius/frac/ . The site includes notes for teachers, printable versions, and directions for making a variety of fractals.
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. I didn't even know about Mandelbrot's death until I read your post. It incredible how many great minds exist and have existed, but yet only a few in the area of pop culture even know of their existence.

  2. The week after Mandelbrot's death, the news was filled with information about the deaths of Barbara Billingsley, Tom Bosley, and Bob Guccione. Yet, I still never heard anything about Mandelbrot's death. I do believe his work will be remembered far longer than that of the other three.