Is the Mandelbrot Set real?

John K Clark (
Sat, 26 Jul 1997 08:12:02 -0700 (PDT)

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE----- On Fri, 25 Jul 1997 Wrote:

>things which don't exist in reality can exist only as concepts in
>our mind.

Unclear. Do these things exist or not, what does "exist" even mean?

>>is there any reason to think that The Mandelbrot Set is less real
>>than the chair you're sitting on right now?

>Yes. I can find a chair in physical reality. I've yet to find a
>Mandelbrot set, and have strong reasons to believe I'll never find one.

That's just passing the buck, you arbitrarily decree that one is in physical
reality and one is not, but the very thing we're discussing is what physical
reality is and is not. When I sit in a chair I can't detect it directly, only
through the agency of nerve impulses from my ass. I can't see bacteria
directly, only through a magnifying lens. I can't detect the Virgo cluster
directly, only through a light gathering lens, and even then not as it is now,
only as it was 2 billion years ago. I can't detect The Mandelbrot Set
directly, only through the "lens" of a computer, but at least it shows me
the set as it is now.

Actually that's not quite true, if you're very good at mental arithmetic you
could detect the Mandelbrot Set unaided. If you're correct about reality then
something is unreal if it can be detected directly OR with the use of external
assistance and real if it can ONLY be detected with an external assistance.
This is the exact opposite of the spirit (I don't have a definition) of the
word "real", at least as I use it.

John K Clark

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