12 December 2020

Mandelbrot the Magnificent who bicycles into the modern world

I first became aware of the Mandelbrot set and the popular Chaos theory a few years ago. I was over for drinks at Virginia's at Thomas in Comps, just up a few hills from where I lived in Dieulefit. I was speaking to Patricia an old friend of hers from Edinburgh, a scientist whom I met there during the summer months and liked. She suggested I read the book entitled CHAOS by the New York Times science editor, at the time. I have forgotten his name.

And so I did, and I was glued to it for about a week straight. A great read, it explains in very simple terms the history and the impact that Chaos theory has had upon the scientific world at large. My memory of it today however, reminds me that all indigenous peoples around this planet since the beginning of time have certainly lived by Chaos theory. 

It isn't a long book but I always like to take my time whilst reading, reading anything actually, even straight news. I am a daydreamer, and this state interrupts me all the time so I can inspect my own feelings about the subject at hand. 

"What are my real ideas about all this?", I ask myself between sentences.

Worse, any pretext is enough for me to pause between pages to inspect an ant or a wasp climbing up my arm, and which itself, would be inspecting me... but, anyway.

In boarding school they tried to speed me up with reading exercises and such. But was I to be trained for a love for Law or Tolstoy? 

Anyway, I am still a slowpoke when it comes to reading but I read a lot, all the time in fact. I am currently reading a small book (among others) entitled Mandelbrot the Magnificent by Liz Ziemska which is actually a fanciful novel about his early childhood in France, and quite good. He was the earliest proponent of Chaos theory, the inventor of the whole motherlode.



In school I loved the idea of Maths and Geometry but I was really, really crumby at all of it. My grades were almost as awful as my ability to concentrate. My mind was disorganised but it could also be randomly focused like in some parallel universe where poets lived like pirates  terrorising conventional thinking. I was able to see and feel relationships everywhere, and I also had a good visual memory despite the brain of Swiss Cheese. I always aced those IQ tests which demanded quick responses to pattern recognition and visual relationships. I am still good at them. I was pre-selected to be a poet of sorts, but a poor Maths student.

Imagine that poet being told to find the fastest route around a triangle? This poet will almost always find the slowest route, the scenic route, spending time at both A and B before heading home to C. Like a wayward baseball player, having hit a home run, the crowd goes nuts as he leisurely waltzes around the bases before eventually arriving at home plate with a sort of autistic hesitation, a pas de deux without the deux, but with a certain flair. 

the equation of infinity by Mandelbrot with the help of IBM

I had a close friend years ago who was actually murdered by a mutual colleague. A lovely guy, my friend, but the murderer was a nutcase, and he now lives in a psychiatric ward in Grafton instead of prison where he really should be. But that is another story.

My dear friend John grew up in Northern Ireland and he too, went to boarding school. He was a first class raconteur, and very funny. He once described to me the Sporting Competition which his school hosted at the end of each year before the summer holiday. He boasted about winning the bicycle race one of those years.

But the bicycle race he won was particular in that the first prize went to the clever fellow who managed to take the longest route possible before arriving at the finish line after all the other competitors. In fact, the goal was to come in last place. The rules stipulated that every participant had to keep moving in a forward direction only, however slow, while not touching the ground with one's feet. Obviously collisions disqualified any and all participants. 

It would have been a painful 50 yards long and the width of a football field so it would have taken forever too, but it must have been hilarious to watch. And John, who managed to win the slowest bike race in his school's sporting competition was indeed proud for many years thereafter. 

Watching the race from above (which one can easily do these days with a drone) would have revealed a strange side of Mandelbrot's theory of infinity. But back in the 1950's, and high above, one might have seen the competitors crawling about like ladybugs in a field manifesting Mandelbrot's idea of expanding fractal design. 

The CHAOS theory for me, is a repudiation of Euclid's rigid hold over the way we perceive finite distance and space, as if we all live in a cube created by Marcel Marceau.

Distance is really infinite when one looks at it from the perspective of say, an ant, a ladybug, or especially a poet. But this is my own quick description which might not please a science professor. 

You see, my problem with MATHS was that I never accepted that 99.99999999, etc, etc,,, that needed to  be systematically rounded off to the nearest 100. Every student at school had to deal with it. Personally, it made me crazy because it was like being condemned to wearing a tee shirt which was too small, too tight and uncomfortable. I would always be pulling on it with infinite displeasure. So all this left me anxious and uneasy, especially around what I deemed to be a convenient solution for conforming dunderheads all around me. I was someone who created complications out of everything so I thought I was special!


And I was the terminal "Yes, but" sort of student. "Yes, but,,,,,, Yes, but,,,,,, Yes, But,,,,,," 

I was the Doubting Thomas of students, poking my poetic insistence into solid concrete theories. I drove my teachers to distraction. 

Funny enough, not too long ago, I heard a woman explain what people were really asking for with all this 

'Yes, but,,, Yes, but,,, Yes, but,,,' questions of theirs.

She said that 'Yes, butt' was simply the mating call for other assholes. 

Makes perfect sense to me now.

So then Chaos theory, and its fractal universe sent me a larger tee shirt, and after a lifetime of doubt I was finally, and quite suddenly free, comfortable in my own skin in this world of fractal infinity. I had found the Holy Graal of uncertainty!

And Art is a kind of illogical infinity isn' it?  

For me, Art (Painting, in my case) is not about Logic.  A painting defies logic as does any work of Art. In any event it should never confirm logic, that would be the worst thing besides of course, sentimentality

More to be revealed ...

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