“Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones.”

Initial image of a zoom sequence: Mandelbrot set with continuously colored environment (Created by Wolfgang Beyer with the program Ultra Fractal 3)

Benoit B. Mandelbrot, the ‘Father of Fractals’, died Thursday, October 14 in Cambridge, Mass. He was 85. His passing marks a great loss for science.

Fractal mathematics has provided us with the key to accessing the geometric complexity of nature by assisting us in the decoding and ordering of chaotic and disordered systems. The conceptual power of fractal mathematics is surpassed only by its stunning visual beauty. Benoit was a maverick mathematician who constantly made forays into both physics and economics where his impact has been profound and is difficult to quantify even today.

He was never afraid to go against mainstream conventions and never settled on performing incremental scholarly work. Instead, Benoit aimed at changing paradigms, and indeed he was one of few who ever managed to do so.

In his famous 1982 book, he wrote, “Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.” Beyond our course-grained and efficient conceptions of nature’s geometry lies a reality that is even more fascinating, complex, and sublime than we had imagined.

Thank you Benoit; you have changed the way we look at the world around us.