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The Algorithmic Beauty of Sea Shells (The Virtual Laboratory) 2nd enlarged ed. Edition

5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-3540639190
ISBN-10: 3540639195
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Editorial Reviews


Review of the 4th edition: It is a strikingly beautiful book, with more than a hundred color illustrations of patterns on mollusk shells, side by side with the computer simulations that reproduce them. This bestiary of pattern formation includes stripes (straight or produced by traveling waves), dots, drops, triangles, and meshwork combined in any imaginable way. It is truly remarkable that this diversity of patterns seems to have arisen in the absence of any selective pressure, as the animals that express them spend their lives buried in mud or sand. Thus, these patterns are in essence a manifestation of Nature at play. Meinhardt has a great knack for explaining pattern-forming mechanisms in a non-technical way. In the first few chapters of his book he introduces us to the basic elements of his model in accessible and vivid terms. He shows how local non-linear self-activation combined with a rapidly diffusible repressor (or limiting substrate) leads to the formation of dots and stripes from homogeneous initial conditions, a phenomenon first described by Turing in 1952 as diffusion-driven instability. He then goes on to explain how oscillating patterns and traveling waves can be produced by the same basic model with different decay and diffusion rates. Here, the author and the book are at their best. Johannes Jaeger in: Bioessays 32: 638–640, 2010 WILEY Periodicals, Inc., DOI 10.1002/bies.201000031 From the reviews of the third edition:

This is a serious volume on the mathematical modeling of sea shell patterns. … This volume takes a rigorous approach, progressing systematically … . It would make a great text for either a course at the upper undergraduate or graduate level in mathematics or biology designed around it. It would also be a good supplemental text for a course in dynamical systems, differential equations … . It has left me with a new appreciation, wonder and curiosity about the myriad patterns on shells … ." (Amy Shell-Gellasch, MAA online, January, 2005) --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From the Back Cover

The patterns on the shells of tropical sea snails are not only compellingly beautiful but also tell a tale of biological development. The decorative patterns are records of their own genesis, which follows laws like those of dune formation or the spread of a flu epidemic. Hans Meinhardt has analyzed the dynamical processes that form these patterns and retraced them faithfully in computer simulations. His book is exciting not only for the astonishing scientific knowledge it reveals but also for its fascinating pictures.

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: The Virtual Laboratory
  • Hardcover: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Springer; 2nd enlarged ed. edition (April 24, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3540639195
  • ISBN-13: 978-3540639190
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 8.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,625,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Writing Chemistry on July 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I came across this book at the Rhode Island School of Design library. As an artist I found it surprising that what I had considered to be just a beautiful pattern was actually an imprint of the pressure and movement of the waves upon the seashell. This insight was very thought provoking for me. Perhaps to biologists this is a normal and natural thing - but for an artist this kind of scientific approach with beautifully illustrated pages is a deeply moving experience. This book will definitely make you think twice about the objects that you take for granted - whether it's visually or scientifically. I strongly recommend this book for those who like intellectual challenges and who like to look at the world with fresh new eyes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By G. KOKTSIDIS on January 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I've been collecting shells for many years but i never thought of the complexity and perfection of their patterns! This book describes in a simple way the mechanisms that produce the surface decorations of shells. It takes reader in a fascinating trip in a world of algorithmic shapes and colors!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David Bartlett on June 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book describes, using a computer, The geometry involved in the building of seashells and in particular the surface features. It shows the how and why of surface decorations found on several species of Mollusks. This is probably the only book to treat this subject and do so extensively expertly and comprahensively.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Roger Mastrude on April 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is beautiful in its design and illustrations. More, it shows how the natural, semi-random, form of cowries can be modeled by, and generated from, mathematical equations (which are included in the book.) The original edition of the book included a diskette with computer programs to perform the modeling. In these days of the Internet, that's not necessary, but I'm absolutely certain (though without knowing) that you can download that material from Springer Verlag's website. So you can grow your own seashell in your computer.

As Max Beerbohm said, "For those who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they like [very much!]"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sir Snout on February 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For anyone with a curiosity about how Nature actually forms the beautiful patterns on seashells, this book is a treasure.

With just a little mathematical rigor, the relationships between more abstract mathematical models and forms to the natural objects we see and pick up everyday is revealed.

If you like this book, be sure to check out the book in the same series on plants. They are awesome!The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants (The Virtual Laboratory)
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