Rudy Rucker remembers Benoit Mandelbrot

Eileen Gunn sez, "The incomparable Rudy Rucker describes his visit to one of the greatest mathematicians of our time. Surreal, philosophic, mathematical."
Mandelbrot is waiting for me at the end of his driveway, he's worried I might not find the house as the address on the curb is covered by snow. A white-haired balding man, stocky, somewhat diffident, he sees me, I wave, he doesn't wave back, not sure yet I'm the one he's waiting for, when I'm closer he says "Are you Rudy Rucker?" We introduce ourselves, shake hands, I tell him I'm thrilled to meet him. In the house his wife Adèle greets us, Mandelbrot disappears to take a pee I suppose, then we sit in a cold room with some armchairs. They don't seem to really heat their house. He sits on an odd modern chair with parts of it missing, a collection of black corduroy hotdogs. He wears a jacket, a vest, a shirt, trousers with a paperclip attached to the fly to make it easier to pull up and down, I guess he's 75. Rather rotund and, yes, a bit like the Mandelbrot set in his roundness and with the fuzz of hairs on his pate.

He starts talking almost right away, an incredibly dense and rich flow of information, a torrent. Fractal of course, as human conversation usually is, but of a higher than usual dimension. It's like talking to a superbeing, just as I'd hoped, like being with a Martian, his conversation a wall of sound paisley info structure, the twittering of the Great Scarab.

His wife listens attentively as we talk and from time to time she reminds him to tie up some loose thread.

Remembering Benoit Mandelbrot (Thanks, Eileen, via Sumitterator)


  1. This bit interested me:

    I went to Mandelbrot’s house early in 2001, when I was involved in an abortive project to try and make a large screen (IMAX) science movie featuring some huge, prolonged zooms into the Mandelbrot set.

    Prolonged zooms into the Mandelbrot set appeared in the opening credits for The Bank in 2001, so I wonder if some work for Search for Infinity was recycled there. The premise behind The Bank was that this guy discovers an algorithm to predict market fluctuations and misuses his resulting power to… (its worth seeing. I won’t spoil it).

  2. Poincare proved the earth’s orbit (three body problem) was chaotic and fractal in his paper for the 1887 King Oscar competition.


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