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Shapes: Nature's Patterns: A Tapestry in Three Parts


Shapes: Nature's Patterns: A Tapestry in Three Parts Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Patterns are everywhere in nature - in the ranks of clouds in the sky, the stripes of an angelfish, the arrangement of petals in flowers. Where does this order and regularity come from? It creates itself. The patterns we see come from self-organization. Whether living or non-living, scientists have found that there is a pattern-forming tendency inherent in the basic structure and processes of nature, so that from a few simple themes, and the repetition of simple rules, endless beautiful variations can arise.

Part of a trilogy of books exploring the science of patterns in nature, acclaimed science writer Philip Ball here looks at how shapes form. From soap bubbles to honeycombs, delicate shell patterns, and even the developing body parts of a complex animal like ourselves, he uncovers patterns in growth and form in all corners of the natural world, explains how these patterns are self-made, and why similar shapes and structures may be found in very different settings, orchestrated by nothing more than simple physical forces. This book will make you look at the world with fresh eyes, seeing order and form even in the places you'd least expect.

Book News Annotation:

This is the first volume in a trilogy to be published expanding on the ideas set forth in The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature printed in1999. Ball, a freelance science writer, looks at the shapes present in nature such as the hexagons of honeycombs, stripes on zebras, and the spirals of ram's horns and discusses possible reasons behind the existence of these designs. Inspired by the work of Victorian zoologist, D'Arcy Thompson, this volume explores the evolutionary basis for shapes while simultaneously linking form to art, culture, and a variety of disciplines. The work contains many intriguing images. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

About the Author

Philip Ball is a freelance writer and a consultant editor for Nature, where he previously worked as an editor for physical sciences. He is a regular commentator in the scientific and popular media on science and its interactions with art, history and culture. His ten books on scientific subjects include The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature, H2O: A Biography of Water, The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science, and Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads To Another, which won the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books. He was awarded the 2006 James T. Grady - James H. Stack award by the American Chemical Society for interpreting chemistry for the public. Philip studied chemistry at Oxford and holds a doctorate in physics from the University of Bristol. His latest book The Music Instinct published in February 2010.

Table of Contents

1. The Shapes of Things: Pattern and Form

2. Lessons of the Beehive: Building with Bubbles

3. Making Waves: Stripes in a Test Tube

4. Written on the Body: Hiding, Warning and Mimicking

5. Rhythms of the Wild: Crystal Communities

6. How Does Your Garden Grow?: The Mathematics of a Daisy

7. Unfolding the Embryo: The Formation of Body Plans


Product Details

Ball, Philip
Oxford University Press, USA
null, Philip
Expeditions & Discoveries
Life Sciences - Botany
General Nature
System Theory
Life sciences
Mathematics-Systems Theory
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
Professional and scholarly
220 b/w illus., 8pp color plate section
8.50x5.50x.90 in. 1.15 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Reference » Science Reference » General
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Reference
Science and Mathematics » Mathematics » Systems Theory

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