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The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature
by Philip Ball
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0198502435, Paperback)Seashells are often spirals, just like water going down the drain. There must be a connection, right? Our intuition scoffs at such a notion, but maybe they are related, writes Nature editor Philip Ball in The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature. This deep, beautiful exploration of the recurring patterns that we find both in the living and inanimate worlds will change how you think about everything from evolution to earthquakes. Not by any means a simple book, it is still completely engaging; even the occasional forays into mathematics and the abstractions of hydrodynamics are endurable, tucked as they are between Ball's bright prose and his hundreds of carefully selected illustrations.
When speaking of the living world, Ball seeks to go beyond the theory of natural selection, which explains why we see certain characteristics (height, shape, camouflage), to find mechanisms that can explain how such characteristics come to be. Again, this is no easy task, but for those willing to follow his discussion, the elegance of nature is laid out in zebras' stripes, ivy leaves, and butterfly wings. Moving on to find the same patterns at work in the clouds of Jupiter and the cracks in the San Andreas fault give strength to the feeling that there are self-composing structures that guide everything in the universe toward a kind of order. The Self-Made Tapestry is a challenging look at the biggest issues in science, and well worth a thorough read. --Rob Lightner
(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 04 Jan 2013 08:40:57 -0500)
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