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Mandelbrot Song (Jonathan Coulton)

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Benoit Mandelbrot passed away on October 14th of 2010. Somehow I had missed the news of his passing. Today I was attracted to an article on Big Think because "Mandelbrot" was in the title. The first line stopped me cold.

Although I was introduced to fractals by James Gleick's "Chaos: The Making of A New Science" it was the Mandelbrot set that really spoke to me and inspired me. A Mandelbrot generator was one of the earliest programs I ever wrote. I remember waiting HOURS for pictures to generate. One of the major reasons I got into C programming was because GWBASIC was too slow. :) I remember running my program on my teacher's 386 in class. The GWBASIC program had only generated 20-30 lines by the time the class had ended but my teacher was so fascinated that he let it run all day. We left the picture up there for a few days as "artwork" for the class (Chemistry). I didn't know anything about file formats and so there was no way to "save" the image.

Something about the Mandelbrot set has always fascinated me. It's overall shape is kind of familiar and yet so alien compared to the graphs of high school mathematics classes. It has a natural feel and yet is so utterly unnatural. Its like finding a new universe to explore. Its better than tie-dye.

Over the years I have written many Mandelbrot generators and have played with many more. I have 4 of them on my iPod Touch -- something about zooming in on the Mandelbrot set on a device that fits in my hand really fascinates the hell out of me -- I used to wait for days to see images I can now see in seconds in the palm of my hand! There are not many areas where the speed of modern computers becomes so very evident.

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29 December 2010 - 10:27 AM
Awesome! We are very lucky to have the Fractal Foundation here in Albuquerque and I've been to many of their planetarium shows where we zoom in to the Mandelbrot set on a full dome projection. Incredible feeling.


29 December 2010 - 08:09 PM
That would be a really amazing experience. Thanks for the info on the Fractal Foundation.
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