Mandelbrot Monk  

Robert P. Munafo, 2010 Sep 17.

The Mandelbrot Monk is a work of fiction by Ray Girvan, introduced in coincidence with April Fool's day, 1999. It describes a fictitious medieval Benedictine monk "Udo of Aachen". Udo resembles certain actual medieval monks in having discovered some otherwise little-known mathematical phenomenon and leaving cryptic references to it in manuscripts; he resembles pre-20th century mathematicians in having spent years performing hand calculations to do something that is now very easy with a computer (for example Lucas' work proving that 2127-1 is prime).

Here is an excerpt to give a sense of its style:

[...] Initially, Udo's aim was to devise a method for determining who would reach heaven. He assumed each person's soul was composed of [...] "profanus" (profane) and "animi" (spiritual) [parts] represented [...] by a pair of numbers. [...]

    "Each person's soul undergoes trials through each of the threescore years and ten of allotted life, [encompassing?] its own nature and diminished or elevated in stature by others [it] encounters, wavering between good and evil until [it is] either cast into outer darkness or drawn forever to God." [...]

Schipke [...] at once [saw this as] an allegorical description of the iterative process [...] start with a complex number z, then iterate it up to 70 times by the rule zz*z + c, until z either diverged or was caught in an orbit. [...]

References to other papers (e.g. "The forgotten genius of Udo von Aachen" by Schipke and Eberhardt) are also Girvan's invention.

See also Amygdalan Sects, Buddhabrot.


Full article: The Mandelbrot Monk

revisions: 20080216 oldest on record; 20100917 Add Lucas reference, excerpt, link to full article and note about fictional references

From the Mandelbrot Set Glossary and Encyclopedia, by Robert Munafo, (c) 1987-2017.     Mu-ency index

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