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Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable and Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, has devoted his life to problems of uncertainty, probability, and knowledge. He spent nearly two decades as a businessman and quantitative trader before becoming a full-time philosophical essayist and academic researcher in 2006. Although he spends most of his time in the intense seclusion of his study, or as a flâneur meditating in cafés, he is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute. His main subject matter is "decision making under opacity", that is, a map and a protocol on how we should live in a world we don't understand. Taleb's books have been published in thirty-three languages.
"I have never done anything like others", Mandelbrot once said. And indeed these memoirs show it. He really managed to do everything on his own terms. Everything. It was not easy for him, but he end up doing it as he wanted it.
Consider his huge insight about the world around us. "Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line", wrote Benoit Mandelbrot, contradicting more than 2000 years of misconceptions. Triangles, squares, and circles seem to exist in our textbooks more than reality—and we didn't notice it. Thus was born fractal geometry, a general theory of "roughness". Mandelbrot uncovered simple rules used by nature (and men) that, thanks to repetition, by smaller parts that resemble the whole, generate these seemingly complex and chaotic patterns.
Self-taught and fiercely independent, he thought in images and passed the entrance exam of the top school of mathematics without solving equations; he was both precocious and a late bloomer producing the famous "Mandelbrot set" when he was in his fifties and got tenure at Yale when he was 75. Older mathematicians have resisted his geometric and intuitive method—but the top prize in mathematics was recently given for solving one of his sub-conjectures.
Mandelbrot, while a bit of a loner, had perhaps more cumulative influence than any other single scientist in history, with the only close second Isaac Newton. His contributions affected physics, engineering, arts, medicine (our vessels, lungs, and brains are fractal), biology, etc. But he was unheeded by the very field he started in, economics, where he proved in the 1960s that financial theories vastly underestimate market risk and need total revamping—in spite of the current crisis.
I met him when he was in his late seventies, as he was writing these memoirs long hand. He was the only teacher I ever had, the only person for whom I have had intellectual respect. But there was something else that made him magnetic: he was a raconteur with a profound sense of historical context ... Reading these memoirs put me back in the unusual atmosphere he created around him. The reader is made to feel he are at the center of twentieth century science as it was produced with fields invented almost from scratch: Max Delbrück with molecular biology, Paul Lévy with the mathematics of probability, Robert Oppenheimer with nuclear physics, even Jean Piaget the psychologist for whom Mandelbrot worked as a scientific assistant. And many more.
Finally, the reader will be presented with something that no longer exists in intellectual life: force of character and independence. Enjoy the book.
This book is a fascinating dive into fractals. And if you've read "The Information" by Gleick, you will appreciate the references to Claude Shannon of Bell Labs.Published 2 months ago by Ron Richards
Unfortunately: I couldn't finish the book, couldn't read the last 50 pages. Given the volatility of my life, I don't think that it will be finished soon. So here is my review. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Deniz Akyildiz
I waited so long for this book! When it arrived, I swallowed it whole.!Published 5 months ago by mmoshofsky1
I just finished 'The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maverick' by Benoit Mandelbrot, discoverer of the Mandelbrot Set (I know... what are the chances, right?). Read morePublished 7 months ago by Justin Escher Alpert
I waited a long time to get a copy of this, because it is a subject that really interests me. Local libraries don't have it, so when the price dropped for the Kindle version, I... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Elaine
I read this book because math in general is a mystery to me. I have often wondered what kind of people come up with these torture methods and more importantly - how? Read morePublished 16 months ago by Miranda C
Fascinating book. A look into the mind of a great thinker. Inspiring. A wonderful introduction into fractal geometry and it's applications.Published 21 months ago by Laima V. Rastenis
This is the fascinating story of a math prodigy with an anti-establishment bent and, paradoxically, a yearning for recognition. Read morePublished on August 5, 2013 by rkogel