Color Charge: BZ Patterns

October 3, 2017

The PhysicsCentral team is excited to announce a new project that we've been working on: Color Charge! A coloring book for all ages (but particularly well suited to physics students who need a break from their homework), Color Charge will feature some of the most interesting and intricate images straight from the pages of the American Physical Society's journals, as well as a few of our favorites from other sources. We picked mostly based on which ones would make good coloring pages, but each picture will be accompanied by a caption explaining what's going on in the image—and in the paper that it's from. Keep an eye out for the coloring book itself, and for more images from it to be posted here!

Weird Wavefronts

Curling, shelf-fungus-like patterns of colorful stripes. Belousov-Zhabotinsky reactions create weird colorful, geometric spirals.

What's Going On Here?

A Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction is a complex bit of chemistry that involves atoms losing electrons, gaining them back, and losing them again. In the right conditions, certain atoms look different depending on how many electrons they’ve got in their outer shell, so the BZ reaction creates visible concentric rings that slowly spread out from a central point—at least when the reaction takes place in calm circumstances. In a more chaotic environment, like one where there are multiple origin points that these waves radiate out from, patterns like the image above can form when wave fronts run up against one another and interfere.

Want to color it yourself? You can download a .pdf of this page from the coloring book by clicking the image below, and print it out!

Belousov-Zhabotinsky reactions create weird colorful, geometric spirals; this coloring page lets you pick your own!