Mandelbrot inspired by "impossible questions"

The world lost a renaissance thinker recently in mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, who died earlier this month. Inspired by the simple question, "how long is the coast line of Britain?" he went on to create new ways of describing complexity that have enriched fields as diverse as mathematics and architecture, biology and design.

For example, many natural objects such as ferns and blood vessels can be described as fractals, which means that their unfolding follows an algorithmic, or generative, progression that is limitless in two-dimensions, but finite in three.

These new mathematical connections to the natural are found throughout the book Pulse, which describes the inroads of biologically-inspired thinking on everyday scientific and intellectual pursuits. New insights in economics and network theory can also be described in the language of fractals.

In this Salon video, Paola Antonelli, the senior curator of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art, and Mandelbrot, the father of fractal geometry, discuss the wide variety of ways non-linear, organic thinking has influenced the work of people that build buildings and make things.

Click the link and have a listen.


Paola Antonelli, by the way, also created the MOMA exhibit, "Design and the Elastic Mind," which can be also be found online.