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Turbulence: Kolmogorov, Nabukov, Heisenberg, Weizsäcker and Onsager


Two years at Caltech: Wiener and Delbruck
Benoît Mandelbrot Mathematician
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So I found myself in Caltech. It was a very interesting time. It was also a time for beginnings and in many ways I didn't like Caltech; in many ways Caltech wasn't good for me, but in many ways it was a dream place. Because the war was finished, the students were simply extraordinary; I mean my classmates. In aeronautics several students had been war heroes; they were colonels in the Air force and wanted to become generals so they would come to get degrees at Caltech to help themselves. There were very few people without experience; people had been touched by the war, in one form or another, very deeply. Then many works that had been done over the years during the war, and not published or not publicised, were becoming known. And it was like spring. It was something where, wherever you look, some flowers are coming from the fields. It was in '48 that Wiener's Cybernetics appeared and it had an extraordinary influence in my life. Wiener was a friend of my uncle, so I knew Wiener, at least I had at least met Wiener. It was also then - and that was more important perhaps - that Max Delbruck came to Caltech and started molecular biology. And so I spent two years there. The first year I was a fairly regular student; the second year I had decided it was a mistake and I was not going to stay, therefore I did the course of study, but opened up my horizons in many ways.

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: Bernard Sapoval Daniel Zajdenweber

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.

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

Duration: 1 minute, 45 seconds

Date story recorded: May 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008