(Article nicked from the ABC today, since they write better stories than I do :P)
Maverick French-American mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, who explored a new class of mathematical shapes known as fractals, has died at age 85 in the United States, his family said.
Dr Mandelbrot, who died of cancer in Cambridge, Massachusetts, became known for his ground-breaking study of fractal geometry, used to measure irregular outlines once considered unmeasurable.
Even if the name Mandelbrot is unfamiliar, there is a good chance you will have seen one of the colourful and intricate images created by his mathematical formulas.
His seminal book, The Fractal Geometry of Nature, published in 1982, argued that irregular mathematical objects once dismissed as "pathological" were a reflection of nature.
The fractal geometry he developed would be used to measure natural phenomena like clouds or coastlines that once were believed to be unmeasurable. He applied the theory to physics, biology, finance and many other fields of study.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy paid tribute to Dr Mandelbrot, saying he had "a powerful, original mind that never shied away from innovation and battering preconceived ideas".
"His work, which was entirely developed outside the main research channels, led to a modern information theory," Mr Sarkozy said.
He said the mathematician had been "very critical of the prevailing banking models", adding that his "warnings were not heeded.
"France is proud to have received Benoit Mandelbrot and to have allowed him to benefit from the best education," Mr Sarkozy said.
A professor emeritus at Yale University, Dr Mandelbrot was born in Poland but as a child moved with his family to France where he was educated.
In the United States and around the world, his work attracted the attention of academics, but also pop culture because the fractals he uncovered could be illustrated in the stunningly beautiful representations.
David Mumford, a professor of mathematics at Brown University, told the New York Times that Dr Mandelbrot revolutionised his field.
"Applied mathematics had been concentrating for a century on phenomena which were smooth, but many things were not like that: the more you blew them up with a microscope the more complexity you found," the Times quoted him as saying.
Mathematicians and economists were among those who reacted swiftly to Dr Mandelbrot's death on the internet.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the statistician and philosopher best known for the book The Black Swan, turned over his website to mourn Dr Mandelbrot's passing.
The page featured only the words: "Benoit Mandelbrot, 1924-2010, A Greek among Romans."
Dr Mandelbrot leaves behind his wife, Aliette, two sons and three grandchildren.
Feeling rather pleased with myself after having put both feet forward (in alternating fashion, otherwise running would have been difficult). It's good to have the feeling that things are starting to work themselves out again, as far as running is concerned.
I started off with some uneasiness in my left knee, and a rather tired feeling. I wasn't physically tired, it was more a mental thing somehow. I had a good deal of difficulty concentrating, as the events of the last few weeks bubbled up and demanded attention occasionally. Usually just focussing on my breathing and the cadance of my running manages to dissolve most nonsense after a while but it can be a tiresome exercise at moments. The knee worked itself out after two kilometers.
My time was a little down on what I've been used to, but under the circumstances I'm happy to have done so well today. Middle and Youngest Daughters were along, a yearly tradition by now. We waited on the grandstand for the last of the 8km runners (who received much applause for their efforts although being visibly sadly undertrained) and the first marathon arrivals, although it got a bit cold after the sun hid itself behind the stadium walls. We made a day out of it in Amsterdam and had a long lunch in the city, together with some live jazz and chaotic service.
Tomorrow will be my first race in some six months, this time an 8km race in Amsterdam. This will be the third time I'll be running this race, a magnificent event through the heart of the city and finishing in the Olympic Stadium.
I'm curious how I'll do tomorrow, after nursing a sore foot and ankle for more than two months. Training went well, albeit a little haphazard the last couple of weeks. Feeling nervous.
Today a bird flew into the kitchen. It was just a small one, but large enough to attract an extraordinary amount of attention from the cat, who subsequently set out to catch the bird as it fluttered frantically and floundered, crashing into windows, walls and cupboards. The cat, on the other hand, seemed completely in control whilst wrecking half the kitchen with much enthusiasm. Everything from the window-sill, the top of the fridge and the kitchen work top ended up on the floor as Fearless Feline, as an encore, proceeded to climb the shelves and pose grave danger to any glasses, crockery or earthenware in her way. It never ceases to amaze me how an animal that feigns dormancy 24/7 can get itself so excited within one tenth of a second.
I saved a bird, scolded a cat and spent the next half hour tidying up the place. The bird was either totally unafraid or totally exhausted after its adventure. Probably the latter and after having comforting it I let it be on the balcony with the door closed. The cat was bleating indignantly from the other side of the glass kitchen door and wasn't at all happy with a view of the balcony which was totally beyond her reach.
And me, I just sighed and cleaned up the mess. The bird was gone within twenty minutes, the cat decided it was time again for a nap and I discovered I was out of detergent. So it goes.
As usual autumn is a bit of a difficult time for me. I've been waiting for the tell-tale signs and they turned up early this time, actually about the same time the schools began about a month ago. I'm starting to wonder if part of my seasonal depression problem is also related to the amount of stress going on in my life at moments. It's almost as if when I've been having to deal with a lot of stuff all at the same time there's usually a backlash afterwards which effectively brings me to a halt for some time. I've got my daylight lamp in use already, it's being put to good use for several hours each morning since it's also good lighting for what I'm doing.
Slightly less useful though is that I've been dealing with a foot injury since the beginning of August. I had a small accident on the last day of my removal which had large consequences. I twisted my ankle, sprained a good number of muscles and effectively stopped me in my tracks for many weeks. I haven't been out running for quite some time, last Tuesday was the first occasion on which I could run a decent distance.
The forced break has been almost debilitating in some ways. I've been edgy, irritable and downright depressed on occasion. I've tried compensating with cycling (when my foot was up to the exertion again) and some swimming, but nothing could give me the same sort of satisfaction as running five or ten kilometres.
I've been paying a lot more attention recently to how my body reacts to situations and circumstances. Ever since my addiction period I've made more effort to identify how my emotions and physical well-being interact with each other, in combination with long-distance running and psychomotoric exercises. Too often I see how focussing on sadness can literally drag my body and demeanour down so that anything I do becomes both physically and mentally a chore.
On the other hand, at the moments things are going well and I'm upbeat and optimistic I'm able to accomplish much more than I'd originally intended or thought possible. Sometimes, when running, I'm able to manipulate my moods by varying the rate at which I'm running or modifying my running technique. It's become quite easy to shift emotions by looking in a different direction, concentrating on how I use my arms and legs more efficiently, speeding up when I need to release some negative energy or slow down when I understand that pent-up emotions need to be released in some way (usually through tears).
Much of what I'm doing nowadays revolves around identifying the situation I'm in, distilling the emotions which are in play and how they relate to my physical well-being at that moment. Much of my body is still in a state of half-crampedness after the upheavals of the last six months, most of the reactions playing themselves out in the unconscious mind and leaving painful reminders in my shoulders, foot soles, calves and lower back. Although a lot can be remedied with consistant and constant exercise, (self-)massage and a healthy lifestyle, just as much needs to be addressed with relaxation techniques, meditation and improvements in self-esteem. There are no quick fixes and no easy ways out, I can only be as intuitive and as perspicacious as possible at any given moment to see what needs doing and acting accordingly. Mistakes occur, shit happens but that's the way I need to learn I guess.
And so it goes, life continues and I follow the path I need to continue on. Mysteries, mistakes, misconceptions and muddles are all part and parcel of the journey I'm undertaking, but despite all the inconclusiveness of any given moment I know that life is getting better all the time. The last two years have proven that to me, the next years will be even better.