Edge: THE FATHER OF LONG TAILS — Interview with Benoît Mandelbrot by Hans Ulrich Obrist

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2024-06-07 00:00:08

The use of images in mathematics certainly stands completely against the ideology of the 1960s and '70s, when the sciences were sharply classified according to whether images are or are not important. A German-born friend of mine, a great biologist and philosopher, went so far as to theorise that progress in science consists in eliminating pictures as much as possible. Mathematics was perfect because it had completely banished pictures… even from elementary textbooks. I put the pictures back. This was received in a very hostile fashion by most of my colleagues. Since then, the opposition to pictures has weakened, simply because they have been so extraordinarily fruitful and because humans are continually changing.

BENOIT MANDELBROT (1924-2010) was Sterling Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Yale University and IBM Fellow Emeritus (Physics) at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center. His books include The Fractal Geometry of Nature; Fractals and Scaling in Finance); and (with Richard L. Hudson) The (mis)Behavior of Markets.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST, a Swiss curator, is Co-director of Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects, of the Serpentine Gallery in London.

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