Sunday, 17 October 2010


The first frost of the autumn, the jays were having a party in the poplars, and I took my morning my peppermint tea out to stand in the field. The grass was encrusted and edged with white, and crunched underfoot. Leaves were falling with a gentle crackle, and crouching low to the grass, I could hear the underlying murmur of frost thawing just audible below the birdsong. It was warm in the sun, but the tea and my breath were steaming. And then I noticed that the specks of tea leaves in the last inches of tea had formed a wave-like pattern, the motion of liquid in the mug acting like a mini version of the wind in the Sahara forming sand dunes.

Benoit Mandelbrot has died. The BBC article said he "discovered" fractals... discovered or invented? One could say instead that he 'invented' fractals, and 'discovered' that cauliflowers and coastlines and other natural phenomena exhibit fractal-like properties. But others might say that fractals, and other mathematical constructs such as infinity, complex numbers or the delta function, were there to be discovered. Discuss!

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