I Heart Indies

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bernie Mandelbrot

Benoit Mandelbrot created this visualization of his famous set,
but his brother Bernie was the first to point out, "It looks like
someone's butt, or else like a bunch of turtles."
Benoit Mandelbrot's little brother grew up in the shadow of his more famous sibling, and yet according to many, Bertie had "more sense" and "better hair."  "Why can't you clean your room once in a while," Mrs. Mandelbrot used to berate her oldest son.  "Look at Bernie."


Mrs. Mandelbrot was to play a crucial role in her sons' development.  "You're both equally smart in different ways," she liked to say.  "Bernie understands fractal geometry, and infinitely reducible non-repeating self-similar patterns, Bertie is very good at getting good TV reception, most of the time.

Both boys grew up to make important contributions to mathematics - Benoit Mandelbroth posited a set of complex numbers for which the orbit of zero in a complex plane under iteration of the something or other, I  mean, who really cares anyway, whereas, Bernie stated the theorem that if everyone divides the check equally, it still isn't fair if one of you got a side salad and a mixed drink, and everyone else just got the entree.


Bernie's inquiries also led him into the field of relativity; he was the first to point out, that if two observers, traveling relative to each other at three quarters the speed of light, each would observe that the other's clock was running 12.5% slower, and yet neither one would be able to make it to the bank before it closed on Saturday, not if he needed to get by the dry cleaner, too.  This led to the inevitable conclusion that the universe is constantly expanding, which is why you can never fit into the pants you wore in high school.


Predictably, rivalry between the two brothers was intense, and not always amicable.  Benoit refused to let Bernie stand behind him, and Bernie suffered from a lifelong fear that Benoit would put something in his socks.  Nevertheless; Benoit offered grudging admiration for his brother, saying, "He has achieved the pinnacle of moronic reasoning."

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