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

In Book Reviews, Nonfiction by John Yunker


Patterns in Nature by Philip Ball is a gorgeous book, dense with full-color photos, including:



The book is divided into thematic chapters, such as Symmetry, Spirals, Waves and Dunes, Bubbles and Foam. What’s fascinating is the breadth of photographs and how they visually unite geologic phenomena, flora and fauna, such as the similarities between an owl and a butterfly’s wings:

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The “why” behind these various patterns are explained by the author through brief lessons on physics and chemical properties. But these are only high-level explanations and the author freely admits that we don’t really know why so many animals look the way they do.

What I most appreciated about the book was how I found myself rediscovering patterns in nature simply by looking outside the window. It’s important to stop to appreciate the artistic genius of a leaf or a snowflake or your cat’s fur coat. To quote the late Alexander McQueen: There is no better designer than nature.

And, in the end, we all need patterns — humans and non-humans alike.

If you buy this book, buy it for the pictures. Those alone are worth the price.

Patterns in Nature: Why the Natural World Looks the Way It Does
University of Chicago Press