MGF 1107 – EXPLORATIONS IN MATHEMATICS
LECTURE 31
Benoît Mandelbrot
Benoît Mandelbrot (born 1924) was born in Poland, but moved to
France as a child to escape the Nazis, before emigrating to the United
States in 1957. He worked for IBM for the next 32 years, spending his
last years before retirement in 2005 as a professor at Yale.
Mandelbrot is most famous for his work in fractal geometry, using the
term “fractal” for the first time in a 1975 book. However he came to
prominence in 1967 for a paper titled
How Long Is the Coast of Britain?
Statistical Self-Similarity and Fractional Dimension
. It examined the
coastline paradox, which argues that the length of a coastline depends on
what you use to measure it.
Unit = 100 km, length = 2800 km
Unit = 50 km, length = 3400 km
Mandelbrot argued that, due to self-similarity, coastlines behave like
fractals. If we continue to reduce the unit of measurement then the
length will increase without bound.

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