Making a Mess Might Help You



Artists have long practiced scribbling as a way to get a drawing or painting started. Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli advocated staring at stains and other messy natural patterns to get visual content for paintings – by the 1600s artists like Alexander Cozens were peddling the idea that not only did looking at stains help, but artists could make their own. Cozens called it his ‘Blot Method,’ which arguably morphed from his interests in landscape painting and engraving into the famed Rorschach ink blot test and later the many of the procedures of the Surrealists. Randomness, chance operations, and semi-random methods for generating imagery in visual art have become standard practices for composing unexpected new pictures. In art, making a mess might help you make more and better art.

Recently a group of mathematicians determined quasi-crystals can form within an otherwise random packing of shapes, “that particle shape and entropy can produce highly complex, ordered structures.” This is a fascinating idea – that entropy can sometimes lead to complex order. To read the abstract of their study, click this link at Nature. [The physicists and chemist authoring the study were Amir Haji-Akbari, Michael Engel, Aaron S. Keys, Xiaoyu Zheng, Rolfe G. Petschek, Peter Palffy-Muhoray & Sharon C. Glotzer.] An overview introduction is also available at

We usually think that entropy – the force of disorder and decay – causes only more disorder. It appears that sometimes this isn’t the case.

What if this applies beyond the tetrahedra in the study, to include the folding and grouping of amino acids, proteins, or other complex molecules?

Perhaps life itself resulted from random packing of complex molecules, as a result of how entropy may sometimes lead to complex order?

(I intend to edit this post and add pictures later)

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