Patterns in Nature: Why the Natural World Looks the Way It Does

Philip Ball

The natural world has regularities running through it, from the hexagons of a honeycomb to the spirals of a seashell and the branching veins of a leaf, despite the initial impression that it is overwhelming in its richness and complexity. Patterns in Nature explore not only the math and physics but also the beauty and artistry underlying Nature’s awe-inspiring designs, revealing the order at the core of the seemingly chaotic natural world.

In contrast to the patterns we design in technology, architecture, and the arts, natural patterns arise naturally from the forces at work in the physical world. Very often, the same forms of pattern and shape – spirals, stripes, branches, and fractals, say—recur in areas that seem to have nothing in common, as when the striping of a zebra resembles the ripples in windblown sand. That’s because, as Patterns in Nature demonstrates, these patterns can frequently be explained using the same mathematical and scientific concepts at their most fundamental level, demonstrating a startling underlying unity in the natural world’s kaleidoscope. Patterns in Nature uncover the structure at work in enormous and ancient woods, powerful rivers, massing clouds, and coasts carved out by the sea. It is richly illustrated with 250 color images and is supported by readable and enlightening essays by renowned scientific writer Philip Ball.

This breathtaking visual tour illustrates the wonder, beauty, and diversity of natural pattern generation by examining parallels between, for example, a snail shell and the swirling stars of a galaxy or a tree’s branches and a network of rivers.