Interactive web toy transforms Turing's morphogenesis theory into digital art

British mathematician Alan Turing's theory of morphogenesis explains how intricate patterns form in living organisms. Turing, a renowned English mathematician, and a computer science pioneer, proposed this theory using mathematical principles to describe biological phenomena. Imagine a petri dish where chemicals, referred to as "morphogens," can freely move and react with each other. These chemicals have two opposing influences: one encourages local concentration (in essence, "let's accumulate here") while the other suppresses concentration at a distance (essentially saying, "let's not accumulate there"). When these influences find a balance, regular patterns begin to emerge, much like the leopard's spots or a zebra's stripes. This formation is not due to a microscopic artist meticulously crafting each stripe or spot, but because the morphogens are diffusing and interacting following basic rules.

Digital media artist Karl Sims created a cool web toy that lets you create Turing Patterns. You can share patterns by copying the URL. Here's one I made. Share your favorite in the comments.

I wrote about Karl Sims' evolution simulator, Galapagos, for Wired in 1998.