NABOKV-L post 0024203, Wed, 8 May 2013 03:39:13 -0700

The Fractalist
Without checking the archives, I am fairly certain that Mandelbrot and his
fractal mathematics has come up on the list. At the very least in the context of
Ada Lovelace, mathematical daughter of Lord Byron.

A new book has been published posthumously (the Polish, French and American Jew,
Benoit Mandelbrot died in 2010, I just now discover to my chagrin).

The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maverick by Benoit B.
Mandelbrot Pantheon, 324 pp., $30.00

From the book review (NY Review of Books):

Other self-similar phenomena, each with its distinctive form, include clouds,
coastlines, bolts of lightning, clusters of galaxies, the network of blood
vessels in our bodies, and, quite possibly, the pattern of ups and downs in
financial markets. The closer you look at a coastline, the more you find it is
jagged, not smooth, and each jagged segment contains smaller, similarly jagged
segments that can be described by Mandelbrot’s methods. Because of the essential
roughness of self-similar forms, classical mathematics is ill-equipped to deal
with them. Its methods, from the Greeks on down to the last century, have been
better suited to smooth forms, like circles. (Note that a circle is not
self-similar: if you cut it up into smaller and smaller segments, those segments
become nearly straight.)

Pale Fire certainly has some of this quality. Cut into it anywhere and you have
a reflection of the whole; its very form invites the reader to attack it in this
apparently haphazard manner. So often when discussing this, to me most
fascinating of all Nabokov's work, we have discussed connections to mathematics
(Jansy's most recent reminder of the recurrence of the lemniscate in PF; the
importance of Euler's math; the mathmatics of sundials, etsy etsy).

But have we ever discussed Nabokov the mathematician? "N the Magician", so often
yes. But the mathematician - not to my recollection.


p.s. another tidbit from the review -- we can all find figures of personal
interest in
the dazzling range of people he intersected with in the course of his career.
Consider this partial listing of the figures that crop up in his memoir:
Margaret Mead, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Noam Chomsky,
Robert Oppenheimer, Jean Piaget, Fernand Braudel, Claudio Abbado, Roman
Jakobson, George Shultz, György Ligeti, Stephen Jay Gould, Philip Johnson, and
the Empress of Japan.

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