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Features

The Physics of the Familiar

How paint dries, the way flags flutter, how Nature discovered origami, and other marvels of the physical world

March-April 2008

Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan

Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan
Photograph by Jim Harrison


Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan
Photograph by Jim Harrison

“Just because something is familiar doesn’t mean you understand it. That is the common fallacy that all adults make—and no child ever does,” says Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan, England de Valpine professor of applied mathematics. Mahadevan enjoys explaining mathematically the phenomena of everyday life: practicing the old-fashioned method of scientific inquiry called natural philosophy, where one wonders about everything.