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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Most people?including most scientists?take it as a given that the appearance of complex patterns implies conscious planning on the part of an intelligent agent or, in the case of such patterns in the biological world, the stringent application of the forces of natural selection. Ball (Designing the Molecular World) challenges these assumptions directly, documenting the counterintuitive idea that the operation of simple physical laws often yields complex and beautiful, but wholly natural, patterns. Ball's range is quite impressive. He discusses pattern formation on the hides of zebras, giraffes and leopards; the creation of honeycombs by bees; the uncanny similarities between branching patterns in plants and mineral dendrites of magnesium oxide. Ball also demonstrates how the same physical laws can operate on dramatically different scales: the same pattern of wave propagation has been found both in newly fertilized frog eggs and in nascent spiral galaxies. Despite fascinating material such as that, Ball's text is highly technical and often abstruse?so much so that it may prove inaccessible to most nonscientists?other than the comprehensible captions on the more than 400 photographs and line drawings (24 in color), that is, which make this a book that's at least worthy browsing for general readers.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Excellent and inspiring book, a must have for people interested in pattern formation in nature. Good referencesPublished 11 months ago by Wout Z.
This book is what all 'popular' science books should be: readable, interesting and not too dense, without sacrificing accuracy or or wandering of into unsubstantiated flights of... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Hunter Washburne
Extremely well-written, easy to understand to scientists overview of patternas in nature. An elegant and enjoyable approach to complexity in nature and how it arises.Published on November 26, 2012 by Nicola Toto'
The Self-Made Tapestry is a wonderful read both for the expert and simply curious. Explains so much about the construction of our world it should be taught in high school!Published on December 5, 2010 by paula e. dasen
GREAT OVERVIEW OF PATTERN FORMATION.
FOR THE LAYMAN.
APPENDICES ARE NICE. PERHAPS MORE COULD HAVE BEEN SAID ABOUT SYMMETRY BREAKING. Read more
This is one of the finest affirmations of Emanationism of the Neoplatonists, i.e. that complexity in nature doesnt require Supernatural causes as exposited by Creationists. Read morePublished on May 9, 2007 by VeritasluxMea
This is a lyrical celebration of natural beauty and underlying complexity. Not only that, the book itself is beautifully typeset, composed and arranged. Read morePublished on November 19, 2006 by Book Nut
This is one of the best books i have read. Clear, in depth, and intelligent. Academic and also well written!
I highly recommend it.