View Full Version : Earliest Fractal Calculations
08-05-2001, 11:34 PM
Somewhere, most likely Scientific American or Discover, I read the story of a monk who spent a great deal of time calculating and drawing out some sort of fractal pattern (something, the article asserted, assumed to be far too tedious without modern computer calculating power). However, I have forgotten exactly where I read the story, as well as the circumstances of the story and the name of the monk. Searches on Google have revealed little but my own inability to find things using Google.
So, who was this monk? What was the significance of what he did? Or am I imagining this entire story in some weird fever-dream?
08-06-2001, 12:34 AM
It was Udo of Aachen:
Go here: http://www.raygirvan.co.uk/apoth/udo.htm
My google search was "fractal pattern, monk" then hit cached and look for green marked "monk"
08-06-2001, 01:12 AM
Much thanks to both of you, for both the info and the Google tip :)
08-06-2001, 04:15 AM
I'm sure most of the people reading this realize that the whole Mandelbrot Monk thing is a hoax (note the date on it), but maybe I should mention it since we're supposed to be fighting ignorance here.
08-06-2001, 10:30 AM
Bob's right. John Allen Paulos, the ABC News columnist and
Temple U math professor, wrote an article about Udo on April 1st of this year (http://abcnews.go.com/sections/scitech/WhosCounting/whoscounting010401.html) and includes this postscript:
P.S. It's interesting that all the complexity in the Mandelbrot set comes
from such a simple equation that it could have been discovered by a
13th century monk who stumbled upon rules for dealing with imaginary
Incidentally, the final adjective ("imaginary") applies as well to Girvan's
Udo of Aachen himself.
Don't believe everything you read.
Especially on this date.
08-06-2001, 11:59 AM
Without cheese from the Royal-ts German post site says:
“It was posted first on kuro5hin.org and then later on Slashdot:
and soon people noticed the punchline which reads:
"©Ray Girvan (email@example.com) , April 1st 1999.
My sincere thanks to the late Bob Schipke for permission to reproduce his work."
Before I had read this it sounded absolutely convincing to me, but then I started noticing all the weird stuff like "O fröhliche Weihnacht", which is contemporary High German, used in a 13th century painting or the monk's friend named Thelonius (famous Jazz pianist).
It's a hoax, but still damn cool!”
Memo to self: always add "hoax" to the words in a Google search when the data mentions April 1st.
Well don’t feel to bad. Even the librarian at the University of Hawaii got taken:
08-06-2001, 03:35 PM
The hoax was presumably inspired by plate C1 in Mandelbrot's The Fractal Geometry of Nature, which reproduces the frontispiece of a Bible Moralisee, dating from 1220-50 and now in the Austrian National Library. It shows God, armed with a pair of compasses, creating the heavens, with the shapes involved being distinctly reminiscent of fractals. Mandelbrot calls them "wiggles" and doesn't press the parallel further.
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