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Why do similar patterns and forms appear in nature in settings that seem to bear no relation to one another? The windblown ripples of desert sand follow a sinuous course that resemles the stripes of a zebra or a marine fish. In the trellis-like shells of microscopic sea creatures we see the same angles and intersections as for bubble walls in a foam. The forks of lightning mirror the branches of a river or a tree. l This book explains why these are no coincidences. Nature commonly weaves its tapestry by self-organization, employing no master plan or blueprint but by simple, local interactions between its component parts - be they grains of sand, diffusing molecules or living cells - give rise to spontaneous patters that are at the same time complex and beautiful. Many of these patterns are universal: spirals, spots, and stripes, branches, honeycombs. Philip Ball conducts a profusely illustrated tour of this gallery, and reveals the secrets of how nature's patterns are made.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780198502432
ISBN-10: 0198502435
Format: Paperback
(247mm x 189mm x 18mm)
Pages: 296
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publish Date: 5-Jul-2001
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions


UK Kirkus Review » The latest addition to the growing body of popular literature about the scientific study of complexity explains why similar patterns recur in widely different contexts in nature - why, for example, the stripes on the skin of a tropical fish resemble the pattern of ripples on the windblown sandy surface of the desert. The most intriguing features of the natural world, including life itself, seem to exist in a state bordering on chaos, where patterns are created by the flow of energy through a system, whether an ecosystem or the rippling sand. This is one of the clearest accounts so far of a new branch of science in the making. (Kirkus UK)

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Author Biography - Philip Ball

Philip Ball has been an editor at Nature since 1988, and has written many scientific articles on all topics for the popular press. His first book Designing the Molecular World won the American Association of Publishers award for books on chemistry. All four of Ball's books rate 4 or 5 stars on Amazon.com.

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Invisible by Philip Ball


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