Hidden away in Frank Oppenheimer’s glorious Exploratorium is an unnamed, little-noticed exhibit.
Thousands of tiny white spheres are enclosed between glass plates that form a plane, upon which the spheres are free to move. You give the whole thing a random shake or two, and wait for the little quanta to settle.
Here’s a simulation. Move your mouse over the window below to release the spheres. Moving the mouse outside the window will freeze the spheres. Click within the window to add new spheres.
(Uses verlet integration for the physics of collisions, with code I adapted from Florian Boesch. You may need a fast browser like Chrome to view the simulation)
So. Alternately enchanted and dismayed by this universe of order arising from and dissolving into chaos, I’m always heartened to find the occasional calm in the eddies: