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Celebrated mathematician to speak at SFSU

April 21, 2006

Photo of Benoit MandelbrotBenoit Mandelbrot, the renowned mathematician and founder of fractal geometry, will speak on campus Saturday, April 29. Mandelbrot's lecture, titled "The Nature of Roughness in Mathematics, Science and Art," is intended for a general audience. The event takes place at 8 p.m. in Jack Adams Hall of the Cesar Chavez Student Center. Admission is free and seats are on a first-come, first-served basis.

In 1975, Mandelbrot coined the word "fractal" -- from the Latin "fractus" meaning broken -- to investigate, quantitatively, the rough and irregular shapes of objects in nature such as clouds, rocks, lightening bolts and even the human heart. Mathematicians began to research the geometry of these objects at the end of the 19th century, but the "notion of roughness" remained a neglected field until Mandelbrot used computers to visualize what the earlier mathematicians had theorized. Today these visualizations, including the Mandelbrot Set, are studied by leading scientists in many fields. Fractal geometry also has practical applications in art and other areas outside of the sciences.

Image of a fractal made of egg shapes"By the 1980s computers were powerful enough to unravel the mystery of these images," Associate Professor of Mathematics Arek Goetz said. "As you zoom in on a fractal's pieces you enter a surreal world of beauty and the power of detail." Forms, shapes and patterns of the original are repeated in the magnified smaller pieces. "When you magnify them, you realize that you are entering uncharted territory of mathematical beauty."

Born in Poland in 1924, Mandelbrot fled to France at the start of World War II. He studied at Ecole Polytechnique and received his doctorate in mathematics from University of Paris. He also studied at Princeton and California Institute of Technology, where he received an advanced degree in aeronautical engineering. In 1958 Mandelbrot became a fellow at the IBM research laboratories in New York, where he developed some of the first computer graphics programs.

Mandelbrot is professor emeritus of mathematical science at Yale University and fellow emeritus at the IBM Research Center. He is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and the author of several books beginning with the groundbreaking "Les objects fractals" in 1975. His most recent book, "The (Mis)behavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Risk, Ruin and Reward," was published in 2004.

This lecture is the second in the national series of Einstein Public Lectures, and is part of the spring 2006 American Mathematical Society Western Sectional meeting being held at SFSU. The event is sponsored by the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute and the SFSU Department of Mathematics.

For more, visit Mandelbrot's Web page.

-- Denize Springer
Fractal image courtesy of Dennis C. De Mars


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Last modified April 21, 2006 by University Communications