Does Mandelbrot Like the “Mandelbrot Set” Song?
Question: Which honor means more to you: your Légion d'Honneur medal or the “Mandelbrot Set” rock song?
Benoit Mandelbrot: Well, I happen to know this song, it was sent to me and I was very impressed by it and by its popularity. In a certain sense, it is not which one, but the combination. When people ask me what’s my field? I say, on one hand, a fractalist. Perhaps the only one, the only full-time one. On the other hand, I’ve been a professor of mathematics at Harvard and at Yale. At Yale for a long time. But I’m not a mathematician only. I’m a professor of physics, of economics, a long list. Each element of this list is normal. The combination of these elements is very rare at best. And so in a certain sense, it is not the fact that I was a professor of mathematics at these great universities, or professor of physics at other great universities, or that I received, among other doctorates, one in medicine, believe it or not. And one in civil engineering. It is the coexistence of these various aspects that in one lifetime it is possible, if one takes the kinds of risks which I took, which are colossal, but taking risks, I was rewarded by being able to contribute in a very substantial fashion to a variety of fields. I was able to reawaken and solve some very old problems. The problems are just so old that in a certain sense, they were no longer being pursued. And nobody – I didn’t know anybody who was trying to define roughness of ****. It was a hopeless subject. But I did it and there’s a whole field by which has been created by that.
In a certain sense the beauty of what I happened by extraordinary chance to put together is that nobody would have believed that this is possible, and certainly I didn’t expect that it was possible. I just moved from step to step to step. Lately I realized that all these things held together, and very lately I see that in each field very old problems could be if not solved, at least advanced or reawakened, and therefore gradually very much improved in your understanding.
Recorded on February 17, 2010
Interviewed by Austin \r\nAllen
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Rank 0.5 – Albert Einstein<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0NDY3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjI2NTU4OH0.FtBYC7oJz-ZOiiGC9y0Z50_JvQChmp-ONa3jhR3SuLA/img.jpg?width=980" id="d6f66" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="61288810a4f035ec2af8957fad4e9015" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Albert Einstein With Displaced Children From Concentration Camps. 1949.
Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
Rank 1<p>The group in this class of the smartest physicists included the top minds that developed the theories of quantum mechanics.</p><p><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_Heisenberg" target="_blank">Werner Heisenberg</a> (1901 - 1976) - a German theoretical physicist, who's achieved pop-culture fame by being the name of Walter White's alter ego in <em>Breaking Bad</em>. He is known for the Heiseinberg Uncertainty Principle and his 1932 Nobel Prize award flatly states it was for nothing less than "the creation of quantum mechanics".</p><p><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erwin_Schr%C3%B6dinger" target="_blank">Erwin Schrödinger</a> (1887 - 1961) - an Austrian-Irish physicist who gave us the infamous "Schroedinger's Cat" thought experiment and other mind-benders from quantum mechanics. The Nobel-prize-winner's <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schr%C3%B6dinger_equation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Schrödinger equation</a> calculates the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave_function" target="_blank">wave function</a> of a system and how it changes over time. </p>
Erwin Schrödinger. 1933.
Satyendra Nath Bose. 1930s.
Enrico Fermi. 1950s.
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Lev Landau. 1962.<p><strong>Rank 2.5</strong> is where Landau initially ranked himself, rather modestly, thinking he didn't produce any foundational accomplishments. He later moved his prominence, as his achievement mounted, to the higher <strong>1.5.</strong></p>
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