Mathematics and Philosophy meet in Fractal Pioneer’s Unique Career
Benoit Mandelbrot, the renowned French-American mathematician, died on October 14th, 2010 at the age of 85, and would have turned 96 today. To celebrate, Google published a doodle in his honor. An additional part of the celebration, Google launched an interactive “Explore” feature to allow users to view the endless patterns of the Mandelbrot set.
If you don’t know what a fractal is, simply put, it is a never-ending pattern. As defined by the Fractal Foundation: “They are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop“. There are many examples of fractals in nature, in fact virtually all natural phenomena can be seen as being fractal based.
Mandelbrot is best known for fractal geometry, which is a term he coined in 1975 to describe a new branch of geometry that sought to explain of the irregular shapes and processes found within nature. His research has contributed valuable knowledge in many different fields including physics, medicine, geology, art and even finance.
Wide ranging influence continues to this day
His fractal theory have even found its way into pop culture, with graphical images created by his algorithm placed on t-shirts, posters, album covers, and even inspired a song called “Mandelbrot Set” by Jonathan Coulton and the text “The Colours of Infinity” by Arthur C. Clarke.
The mathematician won numerous awards, including the prestigious ‘Wolf Prize” in 1993 for Physics and even had a small asteroid named in his honor in 2000 called ’27500 Mandelbrot’.
Mandelbrot made significant contributions to the study of financial markets as a fractal based system that conforms to the concept that all of nature, and the entire universe, is also fractal based. A great body of overlapping work exists between the studies of the financial markets done by Mandelbrot himself as well as the way his fractal concepts figured into the work of Ralph Nelson Elliott and Robert Prechter of the ElliottWave.com.
The basis of Elliott’s theory is to describe price movements in financial markets as recurring, fractal wave patterns. This core insight was, in essence an outgrowth of the recognition that, when looking at various time frames in stock market charts, and therefore the human behavior that generated those patterns, the result is no different than looking at, for example, a sea coastline from various altitudes – which reveals a fractal.
The insight that produced this theory not only established and inspired the stock trading strategy based on the Elliott Wave Theory, but also more recently led to Robert Prechter’s Socionomic Theory. Socionomics is a new science using the benefits of Elliott Wave Theory in understanding not only finance and economics but also social behavior, popular culture and politics which can be seen as interpreting nature using fractal based concepts.
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