Benoît Mandelbrot (1924 – 2010)

Saturday, 16 October, 2010

Mandelbrot Exploration

Benoît Mandelbrot (1924 – 2010)

I am deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Benoît Mandelbrot, in fact I didn’t want to believe the twitter “news” floating around last night until I see positive confirmation from a major news source (in this case, the NYT report talking to Dr. Mandelbrot’s wife Ailette).

Long time ago when I was taking an university Algebra class in the summer with an older and kind professor, I bought to the class a book with picture of a beautiful looking and mysterious object (I later learned, a Mandelbrot set) on the cover. The professor asked me why am I reading the book? I said the images were beautiful. He asked, “Why aren’t you reading the master himself directly?” As a result of this encounter, I have since tried to read original research papers or books when I can.

To me, Dr. Mandelbrot is the man that bought arts and beauty into mathematics for me. Before him, I didn’t quite appreciate the beauty in math. Beauty and the rigour of mathematics coexist beautifully in Mandelbrot set.

Thank you Dr. Mandelbrot, may you rest in peace. (I wished I had written you a fan letter before today. I hope you know you are well loved and respected.)

Fractal Zoom Mandelbrot Corner

Here is Dr. Mandelbrot in his own words in a TED2010 talk: Fractals and the art of roughness.

A fun animated video about Mandelbrot Set. [HT Wired]

For the record, the Oct 16th NYT article “Benoit Mandelbrot, Mathematician, Dies at 85” by Jascha Hoffman.

“Benoît B. Mandelbrot, a maverick mathematician who developed an innovative theory of roughness and applied it to physics, biology, finance and many other fields, died on Thursday in Cambridge, Mass. He was 85.

His death was caused by pancreatic cancer, his wife, Aliette, said. He had lived in Cambridge.

Dr. Mandelbrot coined the term “fractal” to refer to a new class of mathematical shapes whose uneven contours could mimic the irregularities found in nature.

“Applied mathematics had been concentrating for a century on phenomena which were smooth, but many things were not like that: the more you blew them up with a microscope the more complexity you found,” said David Mumford, a professor of mathematics at Brown University. “He was one of the primary people who realized these were legitimate objects of study.”

In a seminal book, “The Fractal Geometry of Nature,” published in 1982, Dr. Mandelbrot defended mathematical objects that he said others had dismissed as “monstrous” and “pathological.” Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Cynthia Kenyon’s “extend lifespan” speech at U of Calgary Faculty of Medicine – From worms to mammals: pathways that can extend lifespan

Monday, 11 October, 2010

At a University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine talk earlier this month, Dr. Cynthia Kenyon (UCSF bio) gave an interesting speech about some foundational research about the basis of extending lifespan. Here is a video clip of the talk “From worms to mammals: pathways that can extend lifespan“. [HT UofCMedicine Twitter]

The genes DAF-2 (1998) and DAF-16 (2004) were discussed in the talk, you can find Dr. Kenyon‘s list of downloadable publications.

Also check out Dr. Kenyon‘s Cambridge University talk about the evolutionary basis of ageing.

Orgasm Inc. – The Strange Science of Female Pleasure

Tuesday, 5 October, 2010

Orgasm Inc. - The Strange Science of Female Pleasure

If you haven’t seen the documentary “Orgasm Inc. – The Strange Science of Female Pleasure“, I highly recommend you go get a copy and watch it. I very much agree with the claim in the sysnopsis that Orgasm Inc. is “upbeat, engaging, enlightening, and provocative” and indeed it will “change the way you think about sex.

If you live in Calgary or anywhere in Canada, you can actually watch the full Orgasm Inc. documentary online at CBC The Passionate Eye. (Other countries may have similar arrangement, check Orgasm Inc for more info.) See my previous entry about the film and director Liz Canner. [Oct 6th Update: I have just interviewed Liz to talk about her film and updates about issues discussed in the film. I will post my interview with Liz later. Stay tune.]

Here is a film trailer.

Here is the film synopsis. (emphasis added)

“Extraordinary behind-the-scenes access reveals a drug company’s fevered race to develop the first FDA-approved Viagra for women – and offers a humorous but sobering look inside the cash-fueled pharmaceutical industry.”– Hot Docs Film Festival

“In the shocking and hilarious documentary ORGASM INC., filmmaker Liz Canner takes a job editing erotic videos for a drug trial for a pharmaceutical company. Her employer is developing what they hope will be the first Viagra drug for women that wins FDA approval to treat a new disease: Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD). Liz gains permission to film the company for her own documentary. Initially, she plans to create a movie about science and pleasure but she soon begins to suspect that her employer, along with a cadre of other medical companies, might be trying to take advantage of women (and potentially endanger their health) in pursuit of billion dollar profits. ORGASM INC. is a powerful look inside the medical industry and the marketing campaigns that are literally and figuratively reshaping our everyday lives around health, illness, desire — and that ultimate moment: orgasm.

Upbeat, engaging, enlightening, and provocative,
ORGASM INC. will change the way you think about sex.”

Here are some screen captures form the film,

Orgasm Inc - pix 00b

Orgasm Inc - pix 01

Orgasm Inc - pix 04 - Berman Sisters

Orgasm Inc - pix 05 - Berman Sisters

Orgasm Inc - pix 06

Orgasm Inc - pix 07

Orgasm Inc - pix 09

The first door on the left changed her life

Wednesday, 11 August, 2010

Words by Radiolab” is one of the best radio shows I’ve heard in a long time. Highly recommended.

“It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without words. But in this hour of Radiolab, we try to do just that. We speak to a woman who taught a 27-year-old man the first words of his life, and we hear a firsthand account of what it feels like to have the language center of your brain wiped out by a stroke. Plus: a group of children invent an entirely new language in Nicaragua in the 1970s.”

A bonus video. Beautifully done.


Richard Feynman: Take the world from another point of view

Thursday, 17 December, 2009

Richard Feynman is one of my “Great Minds of Our Time“. The following is Feynman: Take the world from another point of view.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hans Christian Ørsted – Who is he?

Friday, 14 August, 2009

Hans Christian Ørsted - Google Aug 14, 2009 by you.

Thanks to Google, hundreds of millions of people are today celebrating Hans Christian Ørsted’s birthday without having much of a clue who he is … so who exactly was he?

The power of Google gets us to know Hans a little.

P.S. See a discussion about this Google link within the Wikipedia discussion page.

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