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Work with Philips: spectral analysis and colour televisions


Return to France and the Air Force - a year of thinking
Benoît Mandelbrot Mathematician
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I came back to France - into the waiting arms of the French Air Force. It was a very complicated story. They suddenly realised that my military status was totally obscure. Some papers said I was active army because I was at the École Polytechnique; some papers said I didn't show up when I was called, so I was the lowest level of deserter. Well, I was drafted. It's a long interesting story as adventures go, but had no, or very little relevance to my life as a scientist, except perhaps for the following reason. Again I would like to emphasise, I spent a year in a certain way doing nothing. In another way, this was one of those extraordinarily important years when decisions were taken, where things fell somewhat into place. It was at the end of that year that I applied to the ONERA, the aeronautical research laboratory, which was a natural thing to do given my degree, with a year of finishing my Ph.D. with somebody who'd be closer to actual fluid mechanics and continuing. Well, that decision was natural but this year of thinking had made me dubious about whether I should do it, because, again, I had left Caltech because I couldn't find a nice Ph.D. topic, and because it was too much to hope that I would find a better one in Paris, where there were fewer people and many of the people were quite young and inexperienced.

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, 45 seconds

Date story recorded: May 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008