Book shows patterns within the bell curve

October 20, 2003

Complex, ordered patterns hidden within the ubiquitous bell-shaped curve are revealed in a new book, "Treasures Inside the Bell: Hidden Order in Chance," by Carlos Puente, a professor of hydrology at UC Davis.

In his book, Puente shows how multiple repetitions (iterations) of the same simple mathematical operations can create patterns of great beauty and complexity from a simple bell curve. When enough of these patterns are superimposed on each other, they re-create a solid bell shape.

Some of these patterns bear striking resemblances to other patterns found in nature, such as the snowflakes and the crystal structure of some proteins or of DNA molecules.

"Perhaps there is another way of thinking about order, that there is an underlying theme in nature via the bell," Puente said. In other research, Puente studies transitions between different types of disorder in nature; for example, how atmospheric turbulence leads to rainfall.

"Treasures Inside the Bell" is published by World Scientific, Inc. Puente will give a seminar on his work at 4 p.m. on Oct. 22 in Room 3001, Plant and Environmental Sciences Building on the UC Davis campus, sponsored by the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, the Center for Computational Science and Engineering and the Department of Statistics. There will also be a public lecture and book-signing event at the Avid Reader bookstore, Davis, on Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m.

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