December 29, 2014

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:47 am by suebe2

Mysterious Patterns:
Finding Fractals in Nature
by Sarah C. Campbell
photos by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell
Boyds Mills Press

When we think about patterns, we think about AB, AABB, and ABC, simple repeating patterns.  Whether the pattern is linear or radial, the order is always the same and proportions don’t change.  It isn’t surprising that these are the patterns that we identified first.  Look at the shapes that people have identified and recreate — cylinders, cubes, orbs and cones.  Everything is symmetrical and very regular.

For a long time, these were the same shapes and patterns that we identified in nature.  The near-cone shape of the ice cycle.  The orb-like shape of an orange.

But not everything in nature is so regular.  Queen Anne’s Lace, a tree, and a river delta have web like shapes that, at first glance, seem to defy categorization.  At least that was the case until the scientist Benoit Mandelbrot started studying everything from mistakes made by computers to rainfall.  As he examined a vast variety of things, he noticed another type of pattern called the fractal.

In a fractal, small units of a shape combine to create a larger version of the same shape and this larger pieces combine to create a still larger version.  Not sure what I mean?  Think about a river system.  Water meanders through the landscape to empty into streams.  These streams meander emptying into small rivers which join together into still larger rivers.  Twigs to sticks to branches to trees.  Flowerettes to brocolli stems to stalks.  These are all examples of fractal patterns.

Sarah Campbell’s text is straightforward and easy to understand.  The photos that she and her husband have taken clearly illustrate this complex but amazing topic.

Although this book is illustrated with amazing images, it isn’t your typical picture book.  Share it with a slightly older elementary audience — 2nd to 5th grade — and then challenege them to find fractal patterns, staring with those discussed in the book.


May 10, 2012

Wolfsnail by Sarah C. Campbell

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 1:46 am by suebe2

Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator
by Sarah C. Campbell
photographs by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell
Boyds Mills Press
AR 4.4

The text is deceptively simple but a young reader interested in the natural world will be hooked by the opportunity to learn about something so dramatic that can occur in their very own backyard.

Water from a spring rain
runs along the edge
of a porch.
It drips onto the  shell of a wolfsnail.
The snail is tucked inside its shell.

The rain awakens the wolfsnail and it is soon roaming the hostas looking for a handy meal.  Unlike other land snails, wolfsnails don’t eat plants.  They are the only land snail that is a predator — eating other snails and also slugs.  In fact, if the prey it finds is small enough, it devours it shell and all!

Campbell and her husband took the photos for this book and they did an amazing job.  As so often happens with really good photos, I caught myself “reading” the photos and had to go back and read the text.  Their photos are just that good.

You may think that all snails look alike, but if you have wolfsnails  in your area, your child will be able to recognize them after reading this book.  This is a great  study of the natural world and the difference between prey and predator.

Share it with a young nature lover today!



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