The reason why we cannot predict, much less control, weather is of course because it is a chaos system. A chaos system is one that cannot be (easily) predicted. It’s not random, for a simulated chaos system will yield exactly the same result every time it is run. Despite this though, it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict such a system. The latter half of the twentieth century – in no small part helped by computers – saw a shift in consensus. Chaos systems went from being viewed as oddities on the fringe to being accepted as underpinning most real world systems.
Whilst many great people were likely behind this shift in opinion, one name stands out for those of us involved in computing: Benoît Mandelbrot. The “father of fractals”, contributed much to the development of chaos theory, but he is most famous for the “Mandelbrot Set”. The simple equation zn+1 = zn2 + c gives rise to a highly unpredictable – and amazingly beautiful – imagery.
Benoît Mandelbrot is one of those important, yet sublime, influences upon my life. The imagery of the Mandelbrot Set had a huge impact on me when I was younger, but in many ways his ideas on chaos had a greater affect. Sadly today, M. Mandelbrot died at the age of 85. He’ll be remembered no doubt above all for the Mandelbrot Set. I at least will remember him for so much more though. Either way, today we lost a great contributor to human knowledge and the world is a lesser place because of it.