Nature's patterns: a tapestry in three parts

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Oxford University Press, Aug 3, 2009 - Fiction - 190 pages
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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? As Philip Ball reveals in Nature's Patterns: A Tapestry in Three Parts, this order creates itself. The patterns we see come from self-organization. Indeed, scientists have found that there is a pattern-forming tendency inherent in the basic structure and processes of nature, whether living or non-living, so that from a few simple themes, and the repetition of simple rules, endless beautiful variations can arise.
The second volume in this trilogy of books on patterns in nature, Flow explores the elusive rules that govern the science of chaotic behavior. From the swirl of a wisp of smoke to the huge persistent storm system that is the Great Spot on Jupiter, Ball explains the mechanisms at play whenever things flow, and how these give rise to many of the patterns we recognize in Nature--from ripples on a beach to swirling galaxies. The book describes fascinating phenomena such as turbulence, which still defies complete scientific understanding; the principles of symmetry-breaking; and how chaotic behavior emerges in systems. It also looks at how patterns of flow have captivated philosophers and artists for centuries, from Leonardo da Vinci to the movement of Art Nouveau.
Philip Ball is a freelance writer and a consultant editor for Nature. He is a regular commentator in the scientific and popular media on science and its interactions with art, history and culture. His books include 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.

1. The Man Who Loved Fluids: Leonardo's Legacy


2. Patterns Downstream: Ordered Flows


3. On a Roll: How Convection Shapes the World


4. Riddle of the Dunes: When Grains Get Together


5. Follow Your Neighbour: Flocks, Swarms and Crowds


6. Into the Maelstrom: The Trouble With Turbulence


Bibliography


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Contents

Patterns Downstream
21
On a Roll
50
Riddle of the Dunes
77
Copyright

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About the author (2009)


Philip Ball is a freelance writer and a consultant editor for Nature. He is a regular commentator in the scientific and popular media on science and its interactions with art, history and culture. His books include 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.