Monday, October 18, 2010

RIP Benoit Mandelbrot

This weekend Benoit Mandelbrot died of pancreatic cancer. Mandelbrot was arguably the most important mathematician of the last 50 years and was one of the founders of Chaos or Complexity Theory. He coined the term fractal to describe irregular self-repeating shapes the most famous of which bears his name. Check this out to see it in increasing magnifications. Even if you are not into science, it is really cool. This article does a lovely job of explaining his work simply.

I won’t pretend to have the mathematics to truly understand his work, but my introduction to chaos theory changed the way I see the world. I am a head-before-heart kind of person and I need to grasp something intellectually before I get it emotionally. As strange as and unconventional as it sounds, chaos theory was a doorway to spirituality for me. Without chaos, I would not have been open to Buddhism, or mindfulness, or Unitarian Universalism. The buddhabrot fractal is a tweaked subset of the Mandelbrot and there is a reason you see it on this blog.

When I think of connectivity, I think of chaos. This post is a small thank you to M. Mandelbrot for helping to blast open my mind.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. Likewise chaos theory made me see the world in a new light, and was inspired to have a fractal image on my blog.