A very good day

I think I had a better day than any of you readers out there, and I have to gloat somewhere.

So…lunch with John Brockman. An afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art. A conversation with Niles Eldredge. Dinner with Benoit Mandelbrot. I should do this kind of thing every day.

By the way, I really recommend dinner with Mandelbrot. That guy has more stories…


  1. Andrew says

    Dinner with Benoit Mandelbrot…

    I’m sure if you looked closer there would be something further to that…

  2. Rich says


    *shakes fist with rage*

    Well, D*mbski nearly had dinner with GW, or summin..

  3. Scott Hatfield says

    Hey, PZ! Here’s a little conversation-starter. What is it about the structure of evolution through natural selection that is well-represented by Mandelbrot’s beloved fractals?

    I have what I think is an answer, but I’d love to hear what some of the more math-minded people have to say…SH

  4. says


    I’m not quite sure myself. I would think that discrete iteration that generates infinite recurrent patterns has a bit of an analog in evolution via natural selection, since variation combined with the iterative slicing of non-adaptive traits produces complex results in a similar way.

    Just a guess from a Mandelbrot fanboy.

  5. Tristan Heydt says

    When I was but a wee lad, my parents and I went to a talk he did at UC Berkeley… my parents had recently had a Mandelbrot set cookie cutter made, and brought him Mandelbrot set mandelbrots; how recursive is that.

  6. says

    PeeZee come on man, that’s pretty darned sad, lol. But on the other hand quite endearing (in a cutesy way like you might smile at a child getting excited about meeting Santa) that you raise these guys up on a pedestal and feel the need to drop their names like that.

  7. Azkyroth says

    Is the label “recursive” derived from the effects of attempting to absorb them pre-test on the typical student? ^.^

  8. bernarda says

    More good news, did you know that you are an A-List blogger or a bloglebrity?

    “The Very High Authority Group [A-List Bloggers]
    (500 or more blogs linking in the last 6 months)

    In the final group we see what might be considered the blogging elite. This group, which represents more than 4,000 blogs, exhibits a radical shift in post frequency as well as blog age. Bloggers of this type have been at it longer – a year and a half on average – and post nearly twice a day, an increase in posting volume of over 100% from the previous group. Many of the blogs in this category, in fact, are about as old as Technorati and we’ve grown up together. Some of these are full-fledge professional enterprises that post many, many times per day and behave increasingly like our friends in the mainstream media. As has been widely reported, the impact of these bloggers on our cultures and democracies is increasingly dramatic.”


  9. Azkyroth says

    And in other news, I’m rather jealous as well. The closest I’ve come to this is being related to an internationally recognized vehicle emissions expert, and accidentally making the real-life acquaintance of one of my favorite online erotica writers. x.x (And there might be something I’m forgetting…)

  10. Gary says

    Big deal. I had sex with my girlfriend in her dorm room. The hottest girl in the hottest sorority by the way!

    But enjoy your meetings!

  11. Steve Watson says

    Thanks to PZ (and couple of others of the talk.origins & spin-offs crowd) I’m accumulating quite a few “low number of links to $FAMOUS_PERSONAGE”. I’ve now got n=2 to Dawkins and Mandelbrot and n=3 to Darwin. I’m not at all jealous; I’m content to bask in the reflected glory ;-). And to keep me humble, I’ve also got n=2 to Bush via family (not related, just an in-law who was in his class at Yale).

    Scott asks:What is it about the structure of evolution through natural selection that is well-represented by Mandelbrot’s beloved fractals?

    Forget NS, and consider a lineage that at each time step randomly either bifurcates, dies off, or continues as is (coding it up in your favorite language is left as an EFTS). Obviously, the long term fate of the resulting tree is sensitive to the relative probabilities assigned to the outcomes (eg. if P(die) > P(bifurcate) the whole thing dies off rather quickly). However, I hypothesize that for some values (probably P(bifurcate) just slightly larger than P(die)), the resulting tree after many generations will display fractal qualities – ie. that similar branching and grouping patterns will obtain at any granularity between individual twigs and “major limbs”.

    (Disclaimer: It’s been a long time since I last dabbled in fractals, and I’m sitting here in my armchair nursing a major head cold, trying to visualize this thing intuitively. ICBW)

  12. says

    What an amusing coincidence. I just read an article on how “Evolution cannot account for fractals”! Expect the usual suspects: the article was in Ken Ham’s Answers magazine, so you know the reasoning is on the highest and most rigorous level. More here.

  13. ColinB says

    Oh no!

    Given PZ’s own admission as to his effect on people…

    I walk into a room and people fall asleep. If I start talking, catatonia and death ensue.

    … this could be bad news. How many of your meetings ended in death, Dr Myers?


  14. poke says

    Does Brockman mean… book deal? Can we expect to see you making outlandish predictions on edge.org in the future?

  15. some random lurker says

    PZ – By the way, I really recommend dinner with Mandelbrot. That guy has more stories…

    I imagine he has a set of stories made up of smaller stories made up of smaller stories made up of smaller stories…

  16. xebecs says

    I was going to ask you to tell us some stories about M’s stories, particularly those of his stories that involved stories.

    Merely third with the conceit. And sigh ad infinitum…

  17. George says

    – guess who I’m having dinner with?

    May we play 20 questions? Is he/she bigger than a breadbox?

  18. MarkR says

    The best thing about Mandelbrot’s stories? Each one contains an infinite array of successively nested shorter stories.

    DAMMIT!! I was gonna make that joke. . .

  19. says

    May we play 20 questions? Is he/she bigger than a breadbox?

    Does anyone still use bread boxes? The microwave has taken it’s place … both in terms of counter space and being that size that everything is either larger or smaller than .. hasn’t it?

    (Of course I never know where to put the bread anymore)

  20. says

    The best thing about Mandelbrot’s stories? Each one contains an infinite array of successively nested shorter stories.

    Actually, they’re better than that. All of his stories are recursively interlocked, so the overall story never, ever, ever, ever, ever……

    ……ever, ever, ever…..


  21. says

    You actually need to give all the links in those celebrity-network chains.

    For an example:

    My Erdos Number, and how I connect to Erdos through Three Nobel laureates in Physics.

    My Erdos Number is 5, because I coauthored with Richard Feynman, who coauthored with Murray Gell-Mann, who coauthored with Sheldon Lee Glashow, who coauthored with Daniel J. Kleitman, who coauthored with Paul Erdos.


    (5) Jonathan Vos Post and Richard P. Feynman [Nobel Prize, Physics, 1965]:

    “Footnote to Feynman”, Jonathan V. Post and Richard Feynman,
    [Engineering & Science, Caltech, Pasadena, CA, Vol.XLVI, No.5, p.28,
    ISSN: 0013-7812, May 1983; reprinted in Songs from Unsung Worlds, ed. Bonnie Bilyeu Gordon, intro by Alan Lightman (award winning author of Einstein’s Dreams), Birkhauser Boston/AAAS,
    hardcover ISBN: 0-8176-3296-4, paperback ISBN: 3-7643-3296-4, 1985

    (4) Richard P. Feynman with Murray Gell-Mann [Nobel Prize, Physics, 1969]:

    R. P. Feynman, M. Gell-Mann, & G. Zweig, “Group U(6)xU(6) generated by current components”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 13(1964)678-680

    (3) Murray Gell-Mann with Sheldon Lee Glashow [Nobel Prize, Physics, 1965?]:

    Sheldon L. Glashow & Murray Gell-Mann, “Gauge theories of vector particles,”
    Ann. Physics 15(1961)437-460

    (2) Sheldon Lee Glashow with Daniel J. Kleitman

    S. L. Glashow & D. J. Kleitman, “Baryon resonances in W3 symmetry”,
    Phys. Lett. 11(1964)84-86
    [Note: because of the above, Glashow shares with Albert Einstein the distinction of being, up to now, the only Nobel-winning physicists with Erdos number = 1 or 2]
    [Note: combinatorist Daniel J. Kleitman is also Glashow’s brother-in-law]

    (1) Daniel J. Kleitman with Paul Erdos: 7 papers, earliest being 1965

    P. Erdos, D. J. Kleitman & B. L. Rothschild, “Asymptotic enumeration of Kn-free graphs”, in Intern. Colloq. Combin, Theo., Atti dei Convegni Lincei 17, Rom.

    [Note: I might also comment that both Gell-Mann and Erdos were among the roughly 1,500 scientists who signed the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity”, 18 November 1992]

    Then, you have to show more than isolated chains, i.e. tree structure or the like. Example:

  22. says

    I believe that the usual practice with Erdos numbers is limited to research publications. As it says in the Wikipedia account: “In order to be assigned an Erdős number, an author must co-write a mathematical paper with an author with a finite Erdős number.” Otherwise I’d have an Erdos number of 2 because I’ve published things with coauthors of his, but that was undergraduate textbook stuff and probably doesn’t count.

  23. says

    Fair comment, Zeno. But there are Strong and Weak Erdos numbers, depending on whether the text is mathematics or not. There are two dogs with Erdos numbers, and one horse. Wikipedia has only part of the story.

    I have described, on my LiveJournal blog “magicdragon2” the Asimov number, as Isaac Asimov is the key link connecting Science Fiction literature and Biomedical literature. Still, I queried Brin, Bear, and Benford about their Asimov numbers, as having done their authorized posthumous trilogy of novels in Asimov’s Foundation universe. They humbly discount their connection.

    My posting is obviously partially ego, which should be allowed in this thread, and partly to provoke PZ to follow his dined-with network further.

    Allen Ginsberg once told me, while we were partying with Pete Seeger and the Chairman of Harvard’s Biology department (George Wald), a linkage Ginsberg had, of his his having had sex with man A, who had sex with man B, and linked eventually to a president of the United States. But I’m not going to disclose that here, as it’s probably in some Ginsberg biography, or Gore Vidal memoir, or something.

  24. says

    Okay, prodded by Zeno, how about this chain:

    (1) Noe, T. D. and Post, J. V. “Primes in Fibonacci n-step and Lucas n-Step Sequences.” J. Integer Seq. 8, Article 05.4.4, 2005. http://www.cs.uwaterloo.ca/journals/JIS/VOL8/Noe/noe5.html

    (2) Tony Noe, as Associate Editor on several math things with Neil J. A. Sloane, Editor-in-Chief of the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences;

    (3) Neil James Alexander Sloane, math coauthor with Jacobus Hendricus Van Lint (also known as Jack H. van Lint);

    (4) Jacobus Hendricus Van Lint has 2 math coauthorships with Erdos in 1966, including
    mr 35:2836
    Paul Erdos and Jack H. van Lint
    “On the number of positive integers $le x$ and free of prime factors $>y$, Simon Stevin, issn 0037–5454
    vol 40, pages 73-76.

    or, alternatively for last 2 links:

    (3) J. H. Conway, N. J. A. Sloane, “Low-Dimensional Lattices VII: Coordination Sequences” Proc. Royal Soc. A453 (1997) 2369-2389.

    (4) 1979 math coauthorship between John Horton Conway and Erdos:
    J. H. Conway, H. T. Croft, P. Erdos, and M. J. T. Guy
    “On the Distribution of Values of Angles Determined by Coplanar Points”
    J. London Math. Soc. 1979 s2-19: 137-143.

  25. says

    But enough about me and PZ. Here are some real stars:

    The Oracle of Elvis at Virginia


    John Lennon has an Elvis number of 2.

    John Lennon was in A Hard Day’s Night (1964) with
    Norman Rossington

    Norman Rossington was in Double Trouble (1967) with
    Elvis Presley


    mick jagger has an Elvis number of 3.

    Mick Jagger was in The Man from Elysian Fields (2001)
    with Anjelica Huston

    Anjelica Huston was in The Ice Pirates (1984) with
    John Carradine

    John Carradine was in The Trouble with Girls (1969)
    with Elvis Presley


    David Bowie has an Elvis number of 2.

    David Bowie was in Yellowbeard (1983) with Monte

    Monte Landis was in Double Trouble (1967) with Elvis


    elvis costello has an Elvis number of 3.

    Elvis Costello was in Straight to Hell (1987) with Sy

    Sy Richardson was in Nocturna (1979) with John

    John Carradine was in The Trouble with Girls (1969)
    with Elvis Presley


    paul mccartney has an Elvis number of 2.

    Paul McCartney was in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club
    Band (1978) with John Wheeler

    John Wheeler was in Live a Little, Love a Little
    (1968) with Elvis Presley

    [same for George Harrison and Ringo Starr]

  26. says

    My son (along with a lot of other people) has an Elvis number of 2. One of Elvis’s many sidemen now plays in Portland, OR. My son also has a Ray Stevens number of 2.

    In music low numbers like this are pretty common, since Elvis played with lots of people who each also played with lots of people. Quite a few Elvis people are still alive.

    If you were stricter and required an actual recording and not just playing, a quick CD with this guy could be produced for people who wanted to get a better Elvis number. People in SF actually did that with Link Wray — they put together a tribute album giving about 40 SF musicians a chance to play with him. I made the mistake of buying it.