Mitch Feigenbaum

Posted on August 21, 2007 by Steve

From Chaos:

In the spring of 1976 he entered a mode of existence more intense than any he had lived through. He would concentrate as if in a trance, programming furiously, scribbling with his pencil, programming again. He could not call C division for help, because that would mean signing off the computer to use the telephone, and reconnection was chancy. He could not stop for more than five minutes' thought, because the computer would automatically disconnect his line. Every so often the computer would go down anyway, leaving him shaking with adrenaline. He worked for two months without pause. His functional day was twenty-two hours. He would try to go to sleep in a kind of buzz, and awaken two hours later with his thoughts exactly where he had left them. His diet was strictly coffee. (Even when healthy and at peace, Feigenbaum subsisted exclusively on the reddest possible meat, coffee, and red wine. His friends speculated that he must be getting his vitamins from cigarettes.)
In the end, a doctor called it off. He prescribed a modest regimen of Valium and an enforced vacation. But by then Feigenbaum had created a universal theory.

This quote still comes to mind on the rare occasions when I am both busy and doing something I enjoy. I read the book in college, where my idea of keeping busy was to stay up late coding QBasic on a computer that I had obtained in trade for large bag of pistachios. I tried to write a Mandelbrot Set generator, but had to wait until the evening of the following day for enough to be rendered to show that my algorithm was faulty. Eventually, I got it working in Visual Basic.