Deconstructing Patterns

Issue 40 March 2018

Thinking about Patterns

Ian Stewart is an Emeritus Mathematics Professor at the University of Warwick and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He is author or coauthor of over 190 published research papers on pattern formation, chaos, network dynamics, and biomathematics. He has published over 120 books including ‘Does God Play Dice?’, ‘Nature’s Numbers’, ‘Why Beauty is Truth’, ‘Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities’, ’17 Equations that Changed the World’, ‘Infinity’, ‘Calculating the Cosmos’, and the four books of the bestselling ‘Science of Discworld’ series with Terry Pratchett and Jack Cohen. He has five honorary degrees, and his awards include the Royal Society’s Faraday Medal, the IMA Gold Medal, the AAAS Public Understanding of Science Award, the LMS/IMA Zeeman Medal, the Lewis Thomas Prize, and the Euler Book Prize. He is an honorary wizard of Unseen University on Discworld. In this exclusive interview he discusses the mathematics behind patterns in Nature.

On ‘Deconstructing Patterns: art and science in conversation’

In her role as Public Engagement Manager (Exhibitions) at the Francis Crick Institute, Bryony Benge-Abbott both curated and project managed ‘Deconstructing patterns’. She comes from an art and heritage background, having undertaken an undergraduate degree in Fine Art (Painting) at Bath Spa University and an MA in Museology at the University of East Anglia. Bryony joined the Crick early in 2016 to set up institute’s exhibition programme.

Random precision. Countless intimate acts.

Helen Pynor is an Australian visual artist who works at the intersection between art and the life sciences. She has degrees in both cell and molecular biology, and the visual arts, and holds a cross-disciplinary PhD from the Sydney College of Arts. She works with photography, video, sculpture and performance to explore ideas surrounding human and animal bodies, and disease. In this exclusive interview she discusses her collaborative project with Dr Iris Salecker at the Francis Crick Institute, London

Patterns and the visual system of the fruit fly ‘Drosophila’.

Dr Iris Salecker is program leader in the Division of Molecular Neurobiology at the Medical Research Council National Institute for Medical Research in London (now part of the Francis Crick Institute). Her current team studies the mechanisms underlying visual circuit assembly in Drosophila, with a special interest in axon-target and neuron-glia interactions. In this exclusive interview she discusses her ideas and work, and her collaborative project with artist, Helen Pynor, for the ‘Deconstructing Patterns’ exhibition.

Poetry, Patterns and Human Connection

Poet in the City specialise in large-scale live events aimed at new audiences for poetry. Founded in 2006, the organisation brings poetry to life beyond books, producing classic and contemporary poetry performances, experiences and conversations taking on major ideas, issues and people. The group showcase biopics, use poetry to animate cultural moments and to peer into ideas past and present, and create dramatic poetry experiences in major arts venues and unusual spaces. They also support young people to become poetry producers and work with many volunteers, who all help to make a thriving arts community. For the ‘Deconstructing Patterns’ project, The Francis Crick Institute worked alongside Poet in the City to commission work by Sarah Howe and Chu-Li Shewring.

A New Music

Sarah Howe is a British poet, academic and editor. Her first book, Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus, 2015), won the T.S. Eliot Prize and The Sunday Times / PFD Young Writer of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. ‘A New Music’ was commissioned for the ‘Deconstructing Patterns’ exhibition/project.

Infinite Instructions

Chu-Li Shewring works as a filmmaker, sound artist and sound designer collaborating with artists and independent filmmakers including Siobhan Davies, David Hinton, Ben Rivers and Jeremy Deller. As part of the Jarman Awards she has been shortlisted for the 2017 Jules Wright Award for female sound designers. In this exclusive interview she discusses her work and collaboration with poet, Sarah Howe, for the ‘Deconstructing Patterns’ exhibition at the Francis Crick Institute.

Patterns and molecular and biological development.

Nathan Goehring is a Junior Group Leader of the Polarity and Networks Laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute and a Senior Research Associate in the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Cell Biology at UCL. He worked alongside young filmmakers from 1A Arts for the ‘Deconstructing Patterns’ exhibition. The result is a wonderfully surreal fictional narrative created by the students, which offers a metaphor for the lab’s research into the first appearance of asymmetry in the nematode worm ‘Caenorhabditis Elegans’.

1A Arts

1A Arts runs an annual summer filmmaking project for 14-18 year olds, funded by Children in Need, where two professional filmmakers help a group of young people to create their own cinematic-quality short film. The project is free for participants. The film made in 2015, ‘Finding Yourself’ screened at the Foundling Museum, Warner Bros and Tate Britain and was a semi-finalist in the 2016 International Open Film Festival (IOFF). 2016’s film ‘Sketch of a Skit’ premiered at the Museum of Comedy in September 2016. 1A Arts worked with local young people to create the short film in the ‘Deconstructing Patterns’ exhibition zone ‘Breaking Symmetry’.

The maths behind ‘impossible’ never-repeating patterns

Dr Priya Subramanian is a Research Fellow at the Department of Mathematics, University of Leeds. Her interests lie in understanding mechanisms that govern spatio-temporal patterns and emergent behaviours in systems such as thermacoustic systems, transistional (convective/shear) flows of fluids and motion of active organelle filaments. Currently, she is looking at formation of quasipatterns; patterns that possess discrete spectra despite having no translational symmetries.

How animals got their spots and stripes – according to maths

Dr Thomas Woolley is a Lecturer in Applied Mathematics at Cardiff University. He specializes in mathematical biology, where his doctorate focused on understanding the pattern formation behind fish spots and zebra stripes. Alongside this research he now investigates mathematical models of stem cell movement. The hope is that by understanding how stem cells move we can influence them and, thus, speed up the healing process.