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A New Book about an Unsung Hero

We are pleased to offer the latest installment in the Mathematical Lives series of biographical novels by author Robert Black. Benoit Mandelbrot: Reshaping the World is a fascinating look at one of the most influential mathematicians of the twenty-first century—although most people have never heard of him.

Benoit Mandelbrot was a Polish Jew whose family fled the Nazi takeover of Poland. Mandelbrot lived for a time in France, but he also spent time living under a different identity in Nazi-occupied territory, fragmenting his school experience into disjointed bits and pieces. For many people, that would be enough to prevent them from finding eminence later, but Mandelbrot was able to take his diverse schooling, as well as his diverse interests, and find a common denominator to them. That, as well as his work at IBM with the first computers, enabled him to found fractal geometry. He saw applications for his study everywhere, and so did others. In fact, fractal geometry is instrumental in today’s animated films, smartphone antennas, and so much more.

     My power flurries through the air into the ground.
     My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around.
     And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast:
     I’m never going back; the past is in the past!

So sings Elsa in the animated movie Frozen. What most viewers don’t know is that the animation around her was made possible by fractal geometry.

At Royal Fireworks, we want to take students beyond the operations-oriented approach that encompasses the experience of most students with mathematics, and all of Robert Black’s books do just that. We want children to see math in human terms as a human endeavor arising from and dealing with issues in people’s lives. To that end, we offer not only the Mathematical Lives series but also a variety of different books, as well as courses in the Royal Fireworks Online Learning Community, that are designed to enlarge children’s understanding of mathematical vistas. While many math instructors may regard the Benoit Mandelbrot book as a diversion from what they are teaching, we view it as fundamental to a child’s understanding of the field of mathematics.

Learn more about the fascinating life of Benoit Mandelbrot, as well as the math that he was studying, in Benoit Mandelbrot: Reshaping the World. There’s even a “Doing the Math” section at the end of the book that enables readers to try some of the math for themselves!

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