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RIP Benoît Mandelbrot

It has already made the internet rounds, but it seems appropriate, given his popular appeal, to remark on the passing of mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot. Mandelbrot, perhaps best well known for coining the term fractal (and for his related popular work on the subject), died last week at the age of 85.

Mandelbrot’s popularization of fractal geometry garnered him quite a bit of attention beginning in the 1980′s. There is even a fractal named after him, the so-called “Mandelbrot set,” which, like many fractals, is simple to generate, but looks complicated.

It’s no coincidence that popularity in fractals rose in step with advancing computer technology. Without computers to perform the tedious calculations necessary for fractal generation (and by extension, to output all the pretty pictures), the field received much less attention. Contrary to popular belief, though, Mandelbrot was not the first to consider these ideas – indeed, many properties of fractal . . . → Read More: RIP Benoît Mandelbrot

Math in the Movies: Hodgepodge Edition

Most of the time I write about films where math takes a central role, but it is just as often the case that mathematics is at work in more of a supporting capacity. There are many examples of this phenomenon, even if we restrict our attention to movies that are fairly recent. To catalog each such instance would no doubt be fairly time consuming, but thankfully someone has already begun the task. It comforts me to know that I am not the only one who takes pleasure in seeing mathematics on the big screen. Last week the Boston Globe ran an article that discusses the appearance of mathematics in a variety of recent films. In addition to mentioning the recent work on zombie dynamics, the article also discusses the link to mathematics as found in films like Casino Royale, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and The Dark Knight.

. . . → Read More: Math in the Movies: Hodgepodge Edition

Math Gets Around: Holiday Treats

At this time of year, many people push their studies to the side in favor of roasted animals and pie. However, the activities of enlarging your waistline and mastering some mathematics need not be mutually exclusive. For evidence of this claim, I need only turn your attention to the culmination of thousands of years of human evolution: the Pecan Pie-cosahedron.

Pecans + math = crazy delicious.

This masterful work of craftsmanship was created by an individual known by the pseudonym of turkey tek over at The pie is so named because it has the shape of an icosahedron, arguably the most beautiful of the five1 Platonic Solids (so named because of the Greek philosopher, not because the solids are just good friends). Even better, this isn’t turkey tek’s first foray into mathematically inspired baked goods: also on display is the formiddable Giant Fractal Pecan Pie.

Yes, even pie . . . → Read More: Math Gets Around: Holiday Treats