Author: Puja Shah
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for they have no tongues. “—Dr. Seuss (The Lorax)
Saving the planet was the last thing on 13-year-old Aiden Dwyer’s mind as he left his house one summer’s day for a walk in the forest.
Yet that may be exactly what he did as he gazed up at a canopy of trees and beams of sunlight, and realized that the trees spiral up in accordance with a mathematical principle known as the Fibonacci sequence.
These numbers, when put in ratios, are what happen to show up in the patterns of the branches and leaves on trees.
And that’s when Aiden thought…
Aiden found that the inherent fractal nature of trees and their spiral pattern actually allows for each leaf to receive the sunlight.
That’s how he got the idea to built a tree-like stand affixed with small solar panels arranged in the Fibonacci pattern. He compared its ability to collect sunlight to a flat-panel collector.
In his American Museum of Natural History Award winning essay, Aiden wrote,
“The tree design takes up less room than flat-panel arrays and works in spots that don’t have a full southern view. It collects more sunlight in winter. Shade and bad weather like snow don’t hurt it because the panels are not flat. It even looks nicer because it looks like a tree. A design like this may work better in urban areas where space and direct sunlight can be hard to find.”
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Leonardo Pisano Fibonacci was an Italian revolutionary mathematician. As a boy, trips to North Africa and the Middle East taught him a great deal of mathematics, including the Indian numerals.
Fibonacci ended his travels in 1200, and in Pisa, he spent 25 years composing a number of texts about number theory. He came upon the series of numbers known today as the Fibonacci numbers derived from his studies of Sanskrit math.
The Fibonacci sequence appears in ancient Indian mathematics, in connection with Sanskrit prosody.
Sanskrit Prosody refers to versification of 3 kinds of poetry, found in spiritual Hindu texts such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana…
When the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are put in ratios, called the Golden Ratio, the value of the ratio was the same as another number, φ, or “phi,” whose value is 1.618. The number “phi” is nicknamed the “divine” by mathematician Luca Pacioli.
What’s even more divine is the many forms the Fibonacci sequence appears in nature just as Aiden Dwyer saw. Leaf patterns, flower parts arrangement, pine cone spirals, pineapple scales and even… humans.
The human body is based on what’s called “patterns of 5”, (which is also the basis of phi). There are 5 appendages to the torso as the arms, legs and head. Then on each of those areas, there are 5 appendages as fingers, toes and openings of the face. Lastly, there are 5 senses to the outside world, (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell).
The divine number is computed using 5 mathematically by: 5 ^ .5 * .5 + .5 = Phi
“The first law of ecology is that everything is related to everything else.”
Barry Commoner, biologist.
Isn’t it fascinating that there’s a mathematical connection between every living cell, both in nature and in our bodies? That’s the Fibonacci sequence, and it may just be the key to solving many of our modern-day challenges!
What are some other ways we can harness nature to solve modern problems? Share your thoughts below, we read every comment!