Monday, November 8, 2010

Godless Beautiful Thing Of The Week

First off, an apology. This should have been done last night, but having hit the age of 25 fists-first, at an appreciable fraction of lightspeed, I've had other things on my mind. So, here we go, slightly late but well-formed for all that.

Week Three in the GBTOTW (which sounds like a town in Eastern Europe, but fuck it) and in contrast to the biological beauty of last week's post, this weekend focuses on a different beauty: the mathematical perfection of fractals. I do this because it was brought to my attention that Benoit Mandelbrot died of cancer last month, aged 85, in Massachusetts.

Mandelbrot was the man who discovered fractals, and there's one kind named after him. The discovery led to new abilities to measure things that previously couldn't be - the coastline of my island home of Britain, for example, or the internal geometry of a lung. It also led to new theories in data compression and digital music. I won't sport with people's intelligence by wasting space here on what a quick Google can explain better - but this is the kind of thing it led to:

Shiiiiiiiit. That's a weird-looking pattern - but what Mandelbrot discovered about such patterns, and what makes them freaky to look at when stoned, is that it repeats all the way down.

Another example, less like peacock plumage but still guaranteed to mess with your head if you're under certain chemical influences. I have that much on good authority.

These things tend to look either like deep-sea lifeforms (not so far off, as the Mandel Bro discovered that they occur widely in nature such as within cauliflowers and broccoli) or radiation-sensitive images of the early life of the universe.

(A Mandelbrot pattern, named for the lad himself.)

Those last two examples aren't even mathematical constructs - one's water frost forming on the surface of a mercury pool, and the other is the fractal growths inside a cauliflower. Fucking. Awesome.

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