Slideshow of Stunning (and Whimsical) Fractals, in Honor of Benoit Mandelbrot

Posted by Alex Goldmark

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The maverick French mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot has died of pancreatic cancer at age 85. He will be remembered for creating a new branch of math: fractal geometry. The field allowed us to measure phenomena in nature thought previously off-limits to math, like clouds, and cauliflower.

"Fractals are easy to explain, it's like a romanesco cauliflower, which is to say that each small part of it is exactly the same as the entire cauliflower itself," Catherine Hill, a statistician at the Gustave Roussy Institute, explains to AFP.

More technically, a fractal is a fragmented geometric shape that, when split into parts, each part is roughly a smaller copy of the whole, a property called self-similarity. And it makes some damn wild images when you start injecting color, layers or even candy.

MORE: Here is an amazing fractal art gallery on Flickr.