Noise to order

Nature. 2001 Mar 8;410(6825):251-8. doi: 10.1038/35065689.


Patterns in natural systems abound, from the stripes on a zebra to ripples in a riverbed. In many of these systems, the appearance of an ordered state is not unexpected as the outcome of an underlying ordered process. Thus crystal growth, honeycomb manufacture and floret evolution generate regular and predictable patterns. Intrinsically noisy and disordered processes such as thermal fluctuations or mechanically randomized scattering generate surprisingly similar patterns. Here we discuss some of the underlying mechanisms believed to be at the heart of these similarities.