Mandelbrot @ MIT

“… science is cumulative and art is not”, B. Mandelbrot.


Eighty two year old legend Benoît Mandelbrot gave a two and a half hour long talk at MIT (location 10-250) yesterday night. A couple of key influences to his ideas I didn’t know about are the work of the japanese print maker Hokusai and north american abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock (if you wanna be Jackson Pollock for a minute without having to ruin everything around you with splatter paint click here). Mandelbrot claims to have found many brilliant examples of self similarity (shape and resolution of detail are scale invariant) in Hokusai’s work (a wave made out of waves). Pollock’s approach towards painting might encompass the fundamental motto behind Mandelbrot’s quest: a simple generation rule leads to a very complex outcome.

For Mandelbrot, his life work has been fueled by the opposite pairs of science and art, simplicity and complexity, smoothness and roughness, leading him towards the eternal opposition of the ideal and the real. Having had the opportunity to witness one of my old time college heroes in action will keep me happy for at least a week.

A quick note on Jackson Pollock: I am always amused when I find out in the news that the biggest price paid for a piece of art in history has reached a new peak. The four last ones I remember were paid for a Picasso, a Van Gogh, a Klimt, and only after last week, a Jackson Pollock. One hundred and forty million dollars, how can that be?

A quick note on Hokusai: Check out Kozyndan’s furry tribute to Hokusai’s wave here.

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