Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fractal Geometry

Lee Felice Pinkas is one of the founding editors of cellpoems -- a poetry journal distributed via text message.  I found her poem,"The Fractal Geometry of Nature" in the Winter/Spring 2009 Issue (vol.14, no 1) of Crab Orchard Review.

The Fractal Geometry of Nature       by Lee Felice Pinkas

               Most emphatically, I do not consider
               the fractal point of view as a panacea. . .
                                             --Benoit Mandelbrot (1924-2010)

Father of fractals, we were foolish
to expect a light-show from you,

hoping your speech would fold upon itself
and mimic patterns too complex for Euclid. 

You swallowed your words, hunched
as one who's spent too long with microscopes.

Tired of being dilettantes,
tired of waking up each morning

under winter's dark table, we watched the screen
behind you limn the few hairs on your head.

We had read enough science 
to know that as you spoke of self-similarity,

of patterns that repeated,
your own internal clockwork was rusting.

Fractal, from the Latin fractus,
more aptly described

your weakened eyes,
your mutinous cells.

Soon your name would be only text,
certain and printed beside a snowflake.
The tone of Pinkas' poem is one expressed by non-scientists who meet a scientist when she or he is old and bent.  But for me it is hard to imagine any day when the name "Mandelbrot" will be "only text."  Here, for example, is a link to a 17-minute TED Talk recorded in 2010, in which Mandelbrot speaks of "Fractals and the art of roughness" and ends with these summative words:

          Bottomless wonders 
          spring from simple rules
          repeated without end.

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