By G. Hardy
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Extra resources for A Course Of Pure Mathematics
Let’s make it symmetric. Let’s project it. Let’s embed it. And all that, I could see in perfect 3-D vision. Lines, planes, complicated shapes. Ever since, pictures have been his special aids to inspiration and communication. Some of his most important insights came, not from elaborate mathematical reasoning, but from a flash recognition of kinship between disparate images—the strange resemblance between diagrams concerning income distribution and cotton prices, between a graph of wind energy and of a financial chart.
The branches of a tree, the florets of a cauliflower, the bifurcations of a river—all are examples of natural fractals. The math eschews the smooth lines and planes of the Greek geometry we learn in school, but it has astonishingly broad applications wherever roughness is present—that is, nearly everywhere. Roughness is the central theme of his work. We have long had precise measurements and elaborate physical theories for such basic sensations as heat, sound, color, and motion. Until Mandelbrot, we never had a proper theory of the irregular, the rough—all the annoying imperfections that we normally try to ignore in life.
The large ones are numerous and cluster together. Here, the appropriate analogy is no longer to grass, but to a forest of trees of all sizes—some gigantic. Another analogy is to the distribution of stars. They are not uniformly distributed throughout the universe. Instead they cluster into galaxies, then into galaxy clusters, in a hierarchy both random and ordered. Mathematically speaking, much the same thing is going on in these stock-price charts. That leaves Chart No. 4—the ringer in this game.