Endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful.

Endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful. In the conclusion of The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin writes:

• “It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”

• The final words are poetry: “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

• This award winning video was in response to a challenge by New Scientist magazine to illustrate the final words of Darwin’s book. British artist Pery Burge created these inkplosions to show how a simple spot of paint on water can spread out unpredictably, in great complexity and diversity. Her work straddles the boundary between art and science.

This entry was posted in Rajini Rao. Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to Endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful.


  1. Thanks, Rajini Rao .

  2. Chad Haney says:


    Reminds me of an artist that mixes/layers paint in a container then transfers it to glass. I can’t seem to remember enough to find him/her on the interwebs.

  3. Rajini Rao says:


    These artists are so creative with good old fashioned surface tension!

  4. Chad Haney says:


    Is it OCD when you can’t remember something, e.g., someones name, and you can’t stop thinking about it until that one flippin’ synapse fires just right for you to remember?

  5. Rajini Rao says:


    I’ve taken to googling feverishly to aid those sluggish synapses 🙂

  6. Chad Haney says:


    Don’t tell William McGarvey but I have to abandon Googling for now and get back to this NIH progress report.

  7. Rajini Rao says:


    May the force be with you, Chad Haney !

  8. Chad Haney says:


    Thanks, it’s not for my grant. My final report is due soon though. Panic hasn’t quite set in yet.

  9. Rajini Rao says:


    That’s an interesting perspective, Som Verma !

  10. Gregory Esau says:


    “Her works straddles the boundary between art and science.”


    i’d say her work knocks down the boundary!!


    I’d also say “visually stunning”, but that’s an understatement. 

  11. Rajini Rao says:


    Don’t read this, William McGarvey.


    You’ve already got the money and likely spent it, so no worries Chad Haney 😉

  12. Rajini Rao says:


    Gregory Esau , how cool is this: her work has been studied in articles about fluid dynamics in scientific journals! Apparently, she had to give up traditional painting because of a repetitive stress injury and now creates this fluid art.


  13. Rajini Rao As I’ve previously written:  Prohibition is the surest way to elicit interest.  Chad Haney probably has spent all the monies in his grant, and more power to him!  But if he seeks continued funding, let’s hope he’s spent it wisely, and in his next proposal discusses how he’ll cure cancer, Alzheimer’s, and autism in a single Modular Grant proposal ($250K direct costs/year).  This just might get him barely over the payline and, after a few “backroom deals” between four or five Institutes and cutting the award to $175K direct costs for two years, he’ll get a trickle of money next year.  Whoopee.

  14. Gregory Esau says:


    Tres cool, is how cool that is, Rajini Rao !! Funny how life can sometimes take one thing from us, and give back something more valuable!

  15. Chad Haney says:


    William McGarvey interesting idea. I hereby prohibit anyone from seeing my research and proposals for future research.


  16. Chad Haney In the words of Jon Lovett, “Yeah, there’s the ticket”

  17. Rajini Rao says:


    But William McGarvey , I always promise to cure Alzheimers, autism and cancer in one fell swoop, doesn’t everyone? 😉


    Truth, I really do..the Na+/H+ exchangers (NHE6 and NHE9) we work on ARE involved in ALL THREE (pinky swear).

  18. Chad Haney says:


    So that’s the other mistake I’ve been making. First I go around presenting my data instead of prohibiting all access to it. Then I propose not to cure cancer but only to detect it better and track response to therapy better, leaving out Alzheimer and autism.

  19. Rajini Rao says:


    Hehe, let’s complete the trifecta of grant writing by Rule 3: Complete nearly all the work before proposing to do it 😉 When you get the funds, proceed to work on what you propose to do for the next funding cycle.


  20. A great return of a nasty serve, Rajini Rao — well played.  Let us hope at least your promises can come true, and soon.   Incidentally, last I looked at the data, success rates for non-Modular grants (yearly direct costs exceeding $250K) were actually a few points higher, so aim to play Big Ball if you play at all.

  21. Rajini Rao says:


    Of course, William McGarvey , if you’re going to ask for money, might as well ask for a lot. It’s Big Ball or No Ball.

  22. Chad Haney says:


    William McGarvey the report I’m working on right now (well just my section) is for an R01 that got taken of the reject heap. What amazes me is that it was very vague and somewhat “pie in the sky” (the imaging part, at least). Supposedly that’s why it got taken off the reject heap. I thought R21s were supposed to be high risk. It covers me for a while and I can do almost whatever I want for my part. So I shouldn’t complain. Edit and it’s a big R01 funded for 5 yrs.

  23. Rajini Rao says:


    R21’s have different meanings for different NIH institutions. The other problem is that if they are reviewed by the same study section that also reviews R01’s, they are held to the same standards subconsciously, even though the reviewers are reminded not to do so. I’ve seen many an R21 shot down during review..even the poor R15 grants for small undergrad colleges get the high bar treatment at times.


  24. Those labels are pretty slippery, as I recall.  Sometimes, they’ll fund an R21 (as a preliminary) before an R01 — but the “transitional likelihood” from R03’s and R21’s to an R01 is often not that great as a “fresh”, Type 1 R01’s rate.  Whichever, I wish you the best of luck.

  25. Rajini Rao says:


    Yes, good luck Chad Haney !

  26. Chad Haney says:


    Very sad, as scientists, that we are talking about luck. However, we can’t deny that since humans are involved, it does take some luck to get funded. If you get the wrong person on a study section to review your proposal it can and probably will be doomed. Nevertheless, I didn’t mean to turn this into a grant discussion. Thanks for the wishes of good luck.

  27. Rajini Rao says:


    Standard thread jacking procedure, Chad Haney , no need to apologize. Unfortunately, yes, luck is involved as are humans and politics and the phase of the moon.


  28. It’s all in line with a Darwin-like theme with which Rajini Rao began this post, so no complaints here, Chad Haney .

  29. Chad Haney says:


    Survival of the fittest? I’m not so sure that applies; probably just my sour grapes talking though.

  30. Rajini Rao says:


    Peter Lindelauf , astrobiology would be a cool field to study, IMO. Also, the artist finds parallels between evolutionary biology and exploding supernovae or shifting nebulae. Interesting, right?


  31. Right, though “fittest”, is a strictly venal and not necessarily scientific condition.

  32. Rajini Rao says:


    Chad Haney , we’re all in the same boat. We must continue to do the work we love, but market it better. It’s not so much about fitness but adaptation to the changing funding environment.

  33. Chad Haney says:


    Nebulous; applies to both discussions. 😉


  34. Carry on, folks, I’ll be away for a bit — thanks for sharing some time with me.


  35. What a great post!!


    As usual 🙂

  36. Deeksha Tare says:


    A great video Rajini Rao !


    Thanks for sharing! 🙂


  37. Who said that art and science did not mix? 🙂

  38. Rahul Joshi says:


    ^ Fadia Lekouaghet (cont.) …did not know either art or science in the first place! 🙂


  39. That’s a good question Rahul Joshi! 🙂  IMHO, art should be the first stage. You have to Imagine, draw then explore and iterate the process if necessary just like a SDLC (Software Developement Life Cycle) 🙂

  40. Rahul Joshi says:


    Fadia Lekouaghet Actually it wasn’t a question but continuation to your comment. Edited it now. Sorry for the confusion! 😛


    And yes, art and creativity is always the first step.


  41. Bingo! You got it Feisal Kamil !! 😉 …OK Rahul Joshi, delighted to see that we share the same view 🙂

  42. Rajini Rao says:


    Why, thank you for that sentiment Gina Duarte ! I’m going to keep the posts coming in that case 🙂


  43. The blending of art and science….beautiful vid and comments to educate. Thank you Rajini Rao 

  44. Paul Melrose says:


    Has anyone written about opportunism, as evidenced by the complexity and the interconnectedness of different life forms, as being an inherent feature in organisms? What I mean is, does life discover opportunities or does it seek them from the get-go? I guess I’m asking if opportunism is coded. (I realise there’s a chicken-and-egg argument here.) Hope this makes sense. Thanks.

  45. Rajini Rao says:


    But it’s all become entangled in politics, at least here in the US, Mark Bruce . I was just watching a news report on rising waters along coastal Virginia and how law makers will not use the term “sea level rise” but instead “recurrent flooding”. It’s all so cynical and sad. Hopefully, life ..like hope..will spring eternal and persevere.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s