Happy Tuesday, Friends!
Recently, I wrote about seven big, cross-cutting concepts in science. Last week, we pondered the concept that is perhaps most visible in our daily lives: cause and effect.
This week, I’d like to talk about patterns and how they pervade every aspect of the world around us.
In nature, we see patterns as visible regularities of form. Philosophers have pondered them since the time of Plato and natural patterns include symmetries, trees, spirals, waves, cracks, and stripes.
Most animals, for example have bilateral or 2-fold symmetry- meaning one side of the body mirrors the other (2 eyes, 2 ears, etc.). Snowflakes, though they are just frozen water, have an amazingly complex 6-fold symmetry.
Every day, scientists also observe patterns beyond what is readily visible, such as patterns in weather, or economics. Really – a huge part of science is identifying patterns, which can help one predict outcomes.
A recent Nature publication described different patterns in chest x-rays in COVID-19 survivors versus non-survivors. The article and images of chest computed tomography (CT) is free to read at the link above, but the gist of it is this:
The study team looked at hundreds of chest images of people admitted to the hospital with COVID-19. Even on the day of hospital admission, significantly more bilateral (both lungs) and diffuse lesions were observed in non-survivor group compared with survivor group. Additionally, something called ‘crazy-paving pattern’ – which does not sound good- was more predominant in non-survivors.
Why is knowing patterns of events important, you might ask? What can these patterns possibly tell us? In this case, knowing these patterns can help predict which patients have the greatest chance of developing severe illness – and thus will need early, aggressive treatment. Being able to predict risk factors and determinants of severe disease has revolutionized all aspects of medicine – from cancer treatment, to heart disease, to infections.
Have you noticed any patterns in your life or the world around you?