I am fascinated by the deep and often mysterious connection between mathematics and the world. If you look at nature there are numbers all around us. You know, look at flowers for example, there are many flowers that have three petals or five petals or some of them may have 34 or 55. These numbers occur very often.

These may sound like random numbers but they are all part of what is known as the Fibonacci sequence. A series of numbers developed by a 13th century mathematician. If you start with the number 1 and then 1 and from that point on you keep adding up the last two numbers. So 1 plus 1 is 2, now 1 plus 2 is 3, 2 plus 3 is 5, 2 plus 5 is 8 and you keep going like this.

Today hundreds of years later this seemingly arbitrary progression of numbers fascinates many who see in it clues to everything from human beauty to the stock market. While most of the claims remain unproven, it is curious how evolution seems to favor these numbers. Fibonacci number show up in petal count, especially Daisy, but that’s just the start.

Statistically the Fibonacci numbers do appear a lot in Botany. For instance if you look at the bottom of a pine cone, you will see often spirals in their scales. And if you end up counting those spirals you usually find a Fibonacci number. And you count the spirals going in the other direction you will find an adjacent Fibonacci number.

The same is true of the seeds on a sunflower head. If you count the spirals in each direction, both are Fibonacci numbers. While there are some theories explaining the Fibonacci-Botany connection, it still raises some intriguing questions.

So do plants know maths? The short answer to that is NO. They don’t need to know maths, in a very simple geometric way they set up a machine that creates the Fibonacci sequence in many cases. That may sound absurd, but that’s physicists like me can say with our little wit.


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