Patterns of Life

Life is full of pattterns: From the stripes of the zebra to the spots of the leopard. The aim of the Patterns Of Life project is to visualize the beauty and complexity of the self-organization process in which these patterns are formed. While you watch, the patterns of life installation produces scientific data that is used to explore pattern formation.

The Art

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Visualizing the complexity of life is a major challenge in art. Patterns Of Life tackles this challenge by visualizing the beauty and complexity of patter formation. The diversity of patters generated by the exhibit is surprising, the constanly evolving and shifting shapes hint at intricate design, but are the result of a simple equation, visualized artistically. Because, the exhibit constitutes the first exploration of this particular type of equation every sequence shown is novel and unanticipated. Yet every image shown is also analyzed scientifically and adds a further insight to a growing body of knowledge. The installation thus not only symbolizes but contributes to the constant progress in the scientific exploration of complexity.

The Science

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A detailed description of the background and results from the patterns of life project can be found in the following paper: M. Baurmann, T. Gross, and U. Feudel: Journal of Theoretical Biology 245(2), 220-229, 2007. The installation visualizes an ecologically-motivated reaction diffusion system in two spatial dimensions. This specific system is known as a Rosenzweig-MacArthur-model with quadratic mortality, and had not previously been explored in detail. We showed that this system contains a condimension-3 Turing-Takens-Bogdanov bifurcation - A major organizing center for pattern formation. The installation visualizes dynamics close to this organizing center.

The Installation

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The Patterns Of Life installation was shown for more than 4 years in the permanent exhibition of the Universum Science Center in Bremen, Germany. The Universum is a major Science museum that is visited by approximately 1500 visitors per day. After four years of continuous operation the four computers driving the installation finally collapsed and the installation had to be taken out of the exhibition. It has since found a new home at the University of Oldenburg. Over the course of the project images from the pattersn of life have appeared on various media, including calendars, christmas cards, and coffee cups.

The Project

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The Patterns Of Life project was organized by Thilo Gross (Max-Planck Institute for Physics of Complex Systems, Dresden) and Martin Baurmann (ICBM, Carl-von-Ossietzky University, Oldenburg). The artists thank the EWE Foundation, Oldenburg for financial support and the Universum Science Center, Bremen for hosting the installation and help during during the planning process.