It was fractals that managed to re-ignite my interest in math after having it de-constructed by highschool teachers.
Amazing images embedded in suspiciously simple formulas. Irresistible.
I owe the man a lot, this is really not a good thing to go to sleep with.
I don't get why humans mourn the death of people who die at >80, and especially people who have lead such illustrious, incredible lives. It should be a time for celebration, of the incredible way in which Mandelbrot has contributed to the sum of Humanity's Greatness. We should literally throw a party in His honor.
Humans die around age 80, with a variance of about 55-105. It's just a fact. For all our claims of progress, we are still hopelessly emotional animals who are influenced by whatever-happens-to-influence-us rather than solely by logic and reason.
What's the point of celebrating now that he's dead?
My great grandmother used to tell all of us -- if you're planning to come to my funeral: don't. Use the money and time you'd spend then and come visit me now.
I think now is a reasonable time to mourn. A great mathematician is no longer around to give talks (I went to one a few years ago and thought it was very neat), and if you know him personally then you won't get to see him and converse with him anymore. That's very sad. Sure, he may have done abstractly great things, but there's no denying there are sad aspects to it.
But as for celebrations and parties, those should be done while the guy is still around to enjoy, I think.
There's no value in pointing out that most of the things we do when somebody dies make no sense. We all know that they make no sense, but we do them anyway, because we feel the need to do something, and aside from the bare mechanical fact of getting the corpse out of the way before it starts to smell there's really not much to do that does make sense.
My grandma’s brothers and sisters, kids and grandkids came spontaneously together in her living room shortly after she died at the age of 85. We told each other stories about her life, how she fought her illness late in life, about pranks her kids played on her, how she, as the oldest, had to take care of her brothers and sisters after her parents died early. It was absolutely wonderful and we laughed a lot. Not for her benefit but for us. Much better than the phony consolation and rigid structure of the funeral that followed.
My grandma should never have died. Nobody should ever have to die. But I have become convinced that if someone does celebration is the right way to say goodbye. The mourning will come anyway, be sure to celebrate a little.
I don't think that's a particularly useful or healthy attitude to have towards death, actually.
I like to be pragmatic. I know very well that I will most likely die in a few decades. That’s just how it looks to be at the moment. I do however strongly believe we and the generations that follow us should fight death and that we can win.
If we could live forever, than we couldn't have any children (our reproduction rate is exponential, but there's only one planet that can hold us all and it doesn't grow any larger).
Stretching this, there would be no real notion of parents or grandparents. And it would get pretty boring too.
As most of us here, you're probably too young.
Do you have children? Wait until you see your first toddler walking towards you while laughing.
It's a sentiment worth dying for ;)
On a related note -- for anyone who hasn't read "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" -- It's brilliant.
I'm merely mourning the emotional complex of otherwise-logical humans. I happened to have a frustrating week due to coworkers being unwilling to think about logical benefits of proposed solutions, letting their emotions overwhelm their judgement. "Schedule feature requests? Schedules cause pain, anguish, and suffering; also monsters will materialize and devour your soul. Your whole soul. Scheduling is out of the question. P.S. I assigned you a bug to get done before tomorrow evening (seriously). Drop your multi-week project and work on that, now. Don't worry, I cleared it with the lead programmer."
So when I read the top comment of the top article on HN, and realized it was negatively charged with emotion, I suppose I got a little cynical. :)
In case anyone else is as skeptical as I am ("another Harry Potter fan fic? Why is it special?), I want to point out that this work is by Eliezer Yudkowsky, a major contributor to Less Wrong (lesswrong.com).
He has a remarkable ability to define and express rational ideas. He takes concepts and terms that I've only encountered in a classroom, and puts them in the middle of a sentence like they're ordinary ideas, and it makes sense. I know I'm not doing a very good job of expressing why I like his writing so much, but I do.
Now, you could make the argument that they wouldn't want to die if they were in good health. But then you'd have to start thinking about how good your health needs to be - good enough not to need help? Good enough to be able to do anything you want? Good enough not to worry about doing stupid things? Good enough to keep up with the world as it races ahead, knowing you will eventually be required to understand all the new things?
I guess nature has also made it so that it becomes easier to die. As I said, if your physical health is dwindling day by day, perhaps there is a point when it doesn't seem so much fun to be alive anymore. Also if all friends have already died, perhaps it becomes lonely.
All these are just more reasons to feel sad, though. What if we could become 80 and still feel fit?
My grandfather in particular was an agricultural scientist, he loves plants and outdoors and working with tools, and used to be very energetic.
Now he has to sit on a wheelchair, and grows bored of watching TV and reading (it doesn't help that his eyesight is very bad).
Their current enjoyment are their grandchildren, and we've grown old. I just hope they can get to see their grand-grandchildren (my girlfriend and I expect to have children in 2 to 3 years' time), that might get them some enjoyment again.
Hm, maybe I'll just give her a WoW account + better graphics card for christmass. Who knows :-)
In theory the internet should be great for lonely people stuck at home. My problem is that apart from Hacker News, I don't really know where to turn on the internet when I feel lonely, either.
Any pointers? Most chat rooms seem really tacky, but I didn't do that much research.
Is there a MMORPG for the iPad yet?
-- John Donne
This is a common snowclone (X is <far superior in some dimension - often intelligence> than you or I) that really bothers me. It's a kind of hero worship that attributes too much to the hero in question and makes unfounded assertions about "you or I".
I can understand that people become enthuisiastic about their heroes and that exaggeration is even a form of showing respect. But too much is no good for anyone.
I'll be the first to admit that the reason I'm sad about the not-particularly-untimely death of some dude I've never met has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with the reminder that I, and everybody I care about, will also die at some point. Mouthing the meaningless platitudes which we associate with death helps to take the sting away.
Because we wanted a little more time with him? Because we don't have enough geniuses?
Better now? ;-)
People who reach old age have fulfilled all the potential they can realistically expect to, and death is less unexpected (i.e. "everybody dies, you're lucky to have made it this far"). While we still mourn them, we can also celebrate their life and achievements.
Interactive version: http://www.tagxedo.com/artful/87f79fa9bb6340be
I was fascinated by fractals when I was very young, and in retrospect, and I owe a lifetime interest in Mathematics and computer science to him.
One of the first programs I wrote on the IBM PC was a Fractal explorer (on a PS/2 using Turbo Pascal)
Benoit Mandelbrot, 1924-2010
A Greek among Romans
* "To Benoit Mandelbrot A Greek among Romans" is the Incipit of The "Black Swan" Taleb's book.
* Taleb calls Mandelbrot the "poet of Randomness" in the chap.16 "Aesthetics of Randomness"
* "Intellectually sophisticated characters were exactly
what I looked for in life" (and they are seldom). Taleb p.255 The Black Swan, 2007.
* He could also have said an "Athenian among Boeotian" but Romans are powerful (vs. Boeotians) and Benoit Mandelbrot had to fight the establishment with his visual research. "Pariah amongst French Mathematicians". With his Fractal images, his work was "remarkably easy to understand" for the general public.
* Unlike in Rome, the most popular shows in Athenes were not Circus WWE gladiator fights, it was going to Aeschylus or Sophocles tragedies.
Taleb's homepage http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/
I admire the wit of Taleb to call Mandelbrot a Greek--in this modern world of very Roman panem et circenses.
Not even. Taleb values a combination of intellectual integrity, street smarts, empiricism, and humility in the face of uncertainty.
Far from considering ordinary people 'like you and me' to be philistines, he finds those traits he values in many different walks of life - from the Brooklyn born street-smart trader 'Fat Tony', to casino operators (their risk is not the actual games), to military planners (the risk managers with the most at stake).
He also finds the opposite - the Platonists (those who make the mistake of believing their highly complex yet nevertheless oversimplified models can reliably represent reality) and the philistines (people who value commerce above all else, and art, science, literature only for their capacity to make money or signal it, if at all) - everywhere as well. His particular targets are Wall Street, financial academia, and Economics Nobel, not 'you and me'.
He's quite clear on this in his books and writings.
The expression "A Greek among Romans" is used maybe because Mandelbrot perspective to geometry was a bit different than the common scientific community in 1975-1985. There were many mentions about the "fractal set" just being "fancy" maths. He learned from the community while remaining unique in the community. But now there are many relationship with other model like "diffusion-limited aggregation" (DLA) and the fractal set is now one of the many models to describe our environment.
And then Benoit Mandelbrot died yesterday. Very odd coincidence. Rest in peace, Mr. Mandelbrot.
I programmed my first mandelbrot in basic, then in pascal and C.
Fractint represent! http://spanky.triumf.ca/www/fractint/fractint.html
Atleast in network traffic analysis, there seemed to be a lot of buzz about "self-similar" nature of TCP/IP,Ethernet, till around 2005-2006- you can see heavily cited papers on Google scholar.
But,of late -atleast in the past three years- you wouldn't find heavily-cited research/publications on fractals in top conferences. ( I may be wrong, I only did a quick look up)
Has the interest in application of fractals fizzled out in the past few years?
I see kids in schools being lauded for correctly identifying triangles, squares and circles and for saying "the moon is a circle". I've wondered whether teachers ever found it strange that true triangles, squares and cubes were hard to find in nature. Wondered whether we're teaching kids to look through the peep hole of classical geometry.
Then I think of Mandelbrot and take comfort in that this man who probably schooled that way too managed to break free, drop the peep hole, and mathematically see what we all see day in and day out, but are blind to. That gives me hope that we as a society are a capable lot.
It also gives me hope that fractals have been around in societies for much longer than we commonly know of .. presented beautifully by Ron Eglash at TED - http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_eglash_on_african_fractals.html
If you have Java and a (recent) NVidia or ATI graphic card you can download the software here http://jogamp.org/jocl/www/ (it is one of the demos). It requires OpenCL.
Great man, great contribution to humanity.
function inValues= mndl(limits) %no inputs needed, used by the script to zoom in
%amount of detail to calculate; larger number = better resolution, slower calculation
%maximum iterations used in calculations
if exist('limits')~=1; %intial range of real and imaginary numbers to compute
else numel(limits)==4; %range to compute after zooming in, determined by axis
% Create the Mandelbrot image.
%format presentation of Mandelbrot image
title('Mandelbrot Image: Zoom In and Sharpen for Details');
zoom %turn on zoom feature initially
%recalculate image to enhance after zooming in (just calls the function
%again with new input argument based on current axis)
h1= uicontrol('Parent',gcf,'Units','points', ...
'Position',[105 5 105 20],'Style','pushbutton','String','Sharpen (after zooming in)');
%turn the zoom button on or off
h2= uicontrol('Parent',gcf,'Units','points', ...
'Position',[215 5 55 20],'Style','pushbutton','String','Zoom On/Off');
%reset the image
h3= uicontrol('Parent',gcf,'Units','points', ...
'Position',[275 5 40 20],'Style','pushbutton','String','Reset');
One site that was pointed out here in particular was the Mandelbub, which looks amazing:
dc -e '[lolssdsl0lqx]sx[1+lddd*lld*-ls+dsdrll2**lo+dsld*rd*+4<kd15>q]sq[q]9ksk[d77/3*2-ss47lxx-P1+d78>0]s00[d23/.5-3*so0l0xr10P1+d24>u]dsux'
And here's Benoit Mandelbrot's giving a talk at TED:
Not quite as funny, though.