Home Authors Books Subjects Events Software Features Links Newsletter Gifts Blog Write Review What's New
Review - Shapes - Philip Ball
This is a bit of an oddity, in that Philip Ball has taken an earlier book (The Self-Made Tapestry), split it into three, of which this is one part, and updated it - but going on what's in this book it was a good move, as there's plenty to be going on with.
A lot of the content is driven by an early twentieth century work, On Growth and Form by the Scottish zoologist D'Arcy Thompson. Thompson's thesis was that the new-fangled Darwinian thinking was all very well, and not incorrect, but it wasn't the right explanation for many of the natural forms of things, which were more driven by the physics and chemistry of the processes that made them than any evolutionary adaptation. Ball doesn't always agree with Thompson, but primarily demonstrates this again and again from the shape of beehive cells to the patterns on animals' fur.
There's a lot to like here. This whole aspect of why, for instance, a snail's shell is a particular shape, with a certain pattern on it is not something many of us think of, but it needs explaining once you it occurs to you. I particularly liked the strange way that some cicadas seem to benefit from a very strange pattern, finding survival benefit from having a life cycle that is a prime number of years. We also see quite a lot on the strange oscillating chemical reactions that change colour or produce shifting patterns time and again.
Unfortunately, though the subject is excellent, Ball's prose, which starts off very approachable, gets a bit bogged down and stuffy in later parts of the book. There's too much technical detail on some of the processes and the whole thing gets a trifle dull and textbook like. This is a shame after an excellent opening. It will, however, make an excellent introduction for any one hoping to study more on the subject.
Only in hardback
Review by Peter Spitz
This site has no connection with Popular Science magazine or other sites and publications with a similar name.
Much of the content of this site is written by popular science writers or friends of popular science writers. Inevitably many of the reviews in such a small community are written by or about someone we know. We always aim to be impartial in our reviews, but there is a connection which we need make clear, as there is no intention to deceive. The content of any review or article is solely the opinion of the author and should not be read or understood on any other basis. The site exists to promote popular science writing and popular science authors and for this reason should be considered promotional material, just as the editorial reviews in an online bookshop or the blurb on the back of a book should be considered promotional.
The website should not be eaten or used where it can come into contact with water.
Disagree with our review? Want to comment on a feature? Contact us at info@ popularscience.co.uk - have your say!
Part of the site
Copyright © Creativity
Unleashed Limited 2005
Last update 05 June 2007