Benoit Mandelbrot, RIP

Mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot has passed away at age 85. He only received tenure at Yale ten years ago.

Dr. Mandelbrot coined the term “fractal” to refer to a new class of mathematical shapes whose uneven contours could mimic the irregularities found in nature.

Here’s a photoset with a few examples of his work, or you could watch this amazing video of the Mandelbrot set in action. Rudy Rucker offers a tribute to Mandelbrot with some more examples and memories of a meeting with the man.

Update:From the BBC, How Mandelbrot’s fractals changed the world.

Street-fighting Mathematics

Sanjoy Mahajan’s book, Street-fighting Mathematics, is about the art of educated guessing and opportunistic problem solving.

In problem solving, as in street fighting, rules are for fools: do whatever works—don’t just stand there! This engaging book is an antidote to the rigor mortis brought on by too much mathematical rigor, teaching us how to guess answers without needing a proof or an exact calculation.

The book is available in traditional dead-tree format and also for download under a Creative Commons license.