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École Polytechnique


Leprince-Ringuet and experimental physics
Benoît Mandelbrot Mathematician
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Now the third was Leprince-Ringuet who was, in fact a very important person, not perhaps as a teacher, in the sense that it was just after the war, he had himself not become yet a member of the international community, and his course was, in parts, very old-fashioned, and partly new, it was in transition. But Ringuet was one person who understood that a laboratory had to be established, that experimental physics was something important. There was an extraordinary level of enthusiasm there. For example, I did go to his laboratory; in fact I worked with two people who later became very well known physicists, Muller and Lagarrigue who had the kind of 'Treiman' as they called it, and while Lagarigue stayed in very strongly, Muller also did, I think, even though I saw him less. I left because it was too much and too slow for me, in a certain sense. Actually it was not too difficult because, I must emphasise, I am very good with my hands; I have a steady hand, and so I could actually prepare the instruments by myself. But I felt that I wanted to start science not by just making little instruments for cosmic rays, but- not go so fast into experimental physics.

Benoît Mandelbrot (1924-2010) discovered his ability to think about mathematics in images while working with the French Resistance during the Second World War, and is famous for his work on fractal geometry - the maths of the shapes found in nature.

Listeners: Daniel Zajdenweber Bernard Sapoval

Daniel Zajdenweber is a Professor at the College of Economics, University of Paris.

Bernard Sapoval is Research Director at C.N.R.S. Since 1983 his work has focused on the physics of fractals and irregular systems and structures and properties in general. The main themes are the fractal structure of diffusion fronts, the concept of percolation in a gradient, random walks in a probability gradient as a method to calculate the threshold of percolation in two dimensions, the concept of intercalation and invasion noise, observed, for example, in the absorbance of a liquid in a porous substance, prediction of the fractal dimension of certain corrosion figures, the possibility of increasing sharpness in fuzzy images by a numerical analysis using the concept of percolation in a gradient, calculation of the way a fractal model will respond to external stimulus and the correspondence between the electrochemical response of an irregular electrode and the absorbance of a membrane of the same geometry.

Duration: 1 minute, 28 seconds

Date story recorded: May 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008