Shapes: Nature’s Patterns – A Tapestry in Three Parts by Philip Ball - review by David Profumo

David Profumo

Coccolithophores Galore

Shapes: Nature’s Patterns – A Tapestry in Three Parts


Oxford University Press 320pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

A decade ago, Philip Ball published a book entitled The Self-Made Tapestry, which explored why the patterns that recur in the natural world are not coincidental. This volume is the first in a three-part expanded version, but it is a much more difficult read. 

Ball kicks off with the case of Antarctic meteorite ALH84001, and the problems scientists had in distinguishing organic forms within it even at the microscopic level (was there life on Mars?). Complex patterns used to be taken as evidence of God’s handiwork, but these days you need to

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