Michael Frame

An internationally renowned mathematician and famous teacher demonstrate how mathematics can assist all of us—even those opposed to mathematics—in understanding and coping with sorrow in this insightful and hopeful book.

Everyone has experienced the exhilaration of intellectual epiphany—the rush of immediate knowledge. However, that feeling of joy is accompanied by a sense of loss, as a moment of epiphany can never be replicated. The mathematician Michael Frame looks into this twinning of understanding and loss, drawing on a lifetime’s worth of insight—including his collaboration with the pioneer of fractal geometry, Benoit Mandelbrot—and a skill for making the complicated accessible as he does so. Grief, as Frame demonstrates, can be a window of opportunity.

‘Grief’ is an investigation into the emotional response to an irreversible change in one’s circumstances. This reframes us to perceive parallels between the loss of a loved one or the end of a successful career and the loss of the exhilaration that comes with grasping a difficult topic for the first time. Frame constructs a geometric representation of mental states based on this foundation. The magnifying glass may magnify a fractal item and reveal echoes of the original shape. For example, magnifying an image of a mountain or a fern leaf—both fractal—reveals echoes of the original shape.

Similarly, lesser losses might be found nested within larger losses. Frame demonstrates that by modifying this geometry, we may be able to divert our thoughts in ways that aid in the reduction of our discomfort. Small-scale losses, in effect, serve as learning laboratories for how to deal with large-scale losses in the real world.

Frame’s poetic book is a journey through the beautiful complexities of mathematics and life, interweaving original illustrations, clear introductions to advanced topics in geometry, wisdom gleaned from his own experience with illness and others’ remarkable responses to a devastating loss. Wisdom gleaned from his own experience with illness and others’ remarkable responses to a devastating loss. It aids us in understanding how the geometry of grief can offer a channel for bold action by combining human sympathy with geometrical elegance.