978-0-316-81328-0 / 9780316813280

Patterns in Nature


Publisher:Little Brown & Co (T)



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About the book:

In a stunning synthesis of art and science, Peter Stevens explores the universal patterns in which nature expresses herself. He provides a fresh way of viewing and understanding the physical world.

"When we see how the branching of trees resembles the branching of arteries and the branching of rivers, how crystal grains look like soap bubbles and the plates of a tortoise's shell, how the fiddleheads of ferns, stellar galaxies, and water emptying from the bathtub spiral in a similar manner, then we cannot help but wonder why nature uses only a few kindred forms in so many contexts...It turns out that those patterns and forms are peculiarly restricted, that the immense variety that nature creates emerges from the working and reworking of only a few formal themes."

In elegant and lucid prose, illuminated by hundreds of extraordinary photographs and geometrical drawings, Stevens examines those themes - spirals, meanders, branching patterns, explosions - and explains how they evolve according to the laws of stress, flow, turbulence, least effort, surface tension, close packing, and most important, the constraints of three-dimensional space. Steven's insights about space and its limitations enable us to compare a lightning stroke with the tributaries of a river, and a splash of milk with galaxies in the heavens. He explores the spiral of a seashell, the markings of a giraffe, the spikes of an inkblot. His investigation carries him from the evolution of trees to the drifting of the continents, from the packing of billiard balls to black holes in space, and everywhere he rigorously shows us not only the individual beauty of natural objects, but the underlying harmony that they share.

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