Beenie Man (as soundtrack) and Benoît Mandelbrot and some Sunday reading…

Three latest reads from

THE FATHER OF LONG TAILS Hans Ulrich Obrist interviews Benoît Mandelbrot (here)

A primitive man or woman saw very few, simple, smooth shapes. For example the full moon is a simple shape, a circle. The pupil and the iris of the eye are circles. Some berries are spherical. But in the wild, almost all the shapes are extremely rough and complicated; there is a sharp distinction between the smooth/simple and the rough/complicated. Historically, geometers concentrated on the properties of a very few smooth shapes and physicists were also significantly devoted to smooth, regular behaviour, with perhaps sometimes a complication of the kind that the French mathematician René Thom theorises as “catastrophe”. But trees are not smooth at all, neither are mountains and clouds.”

A THEORY OF ROUGHNESS by Benoit Mandelbrot

Since roughness is everywhere, fractals — although they do not apply to everything — are present everywhere. And very often the same techniques apply in areas that, by every other account except geometric structure, are separate.


W. Daniel Hillis on CANCERING : Listening In On The Body’s Proteomic Conversation


Just to show you how precise these pictures are, you notice that these things tend to occur in these little groups of stripes, tick, tick, tick. You see there are several of them in each group, and they kind of trail off; it’s almost like a ring, or an echo. Well, the reason for that is that carbon has different isotopes, and so if there is an extra neutron, you have a different isotope of carbon in the protein, then it’s going to be slightly heavier. That distance between the stripes is actually the weight of one neutron; it gives you an idea of how precisely we’re measuring things. There’s nothing in between because there’s no such thing as half a neutron. In fact, measuring things so precisely we can often tell by the shape, how many carbon atoms there are in the protein.



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