Based on the work of the Center for Polymer Studies, the focus of this online exhibit is the emergence of patterns in nature from physical and biological processes, which on the microscopic level appear to be dominated by chance. Many of the patterns depicted are fractals, forms which are likely to arise when randomness plays a large role during the pattern's development. Among the examples presented in the exhibit are Lichtenberg patterns, erosion, bacteria, and termites.
The ideas in this exhibit help students develop an understanding of how random behavior at a microscopic scale can lead to the formation of patterns at the macroscopic scale. Teachers wishing to delve further into the ideas covered in this resource should also see Patterns in Nature, curricular materials developed by the Center for Polymer Studies. Teachers can also follow up this lesson with The Fractal Tool, from the Illuminations website.
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