January 29, 2011 § 1 Comment
At that age, you don’t think about how amazing nature is and the tiny details that make it perfectly designed. Even nature conforms to mathematics; in fact, mathematics came from nature first! Flowers, shells and, believe it or not, pineapples were using the Fibonacci sequence way before Fibonacci was even born!
Take a close look at a sunflower head. Have you noticed that the seeds are arranged in a spiral pattern. Notice, too, that they are REALLY tightly packed! Plants grow new bits from a central point called the meristem. Every new growth comes out of the centre at an angle with the previous growth. However, only with a VERY specific angle can the plant make the most economical use of the space. This angle is called the Golden Angle and is approximately 137.5 degrees. If they didn’t grow at this angle, the plant would form its growths (seeds, petals, etc) in rows rather than spirals and you would end up with gaps. Amazing stuff!
So, now that you are baffled with science, here comes the mathsy bit! The Fibonacci Sequence is made up of 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, etc (each number is equal to the sum of the previous two). The number of spirals that form from plants using the Golden Angle is a number from the Fibonacci Sequence. For example, buttercups have 5 petals, asters have 21, Michealmas daisies have 55 or 89.
The Golden Angle appears in shells, too, so the number of spirals in a shell will be part of the Fibonacci Sequence. Pine cones will have a Fibonacci number of spirals coming from the centre. And, yes, pineapples follow the sequence too! Look closely and you will see that there are three distinct sets of spirals, usually a set of 8, a set of 5 and a set of 13.
In fact, you will find the Fibonacci Sequence in most fruits and vegetables, even your cauliflower! So, remember, it’s not mathematicians that create the maths; they are just the ones that find it. Your pineapple is more than just a fruit – it is a marvel of mathematics.
It’s a shame it doesn’t make cauliflowers any more exciting!