Nature’s Complexities

, , Leave a comment


At work, a day before valentine’s day, a member of the development team was anonymously leaving roses on workers’ desks. As I fell victim to this, I kept my rose in my handbag not wishing to draw attention to myself on the journey home. When I got back I started to appreciate how beautiful the rose was; no wonder people like to give and receive flowers!

I become inspired to paint and so made the effort to gather together all the equipment I planned to use (acrylic paint, brushes etc.) But once I sat down and to make a start on my painting, I begun to regret making the attempt in the first place. The plethora of petals and their arrangement put me off – I couldn’t possibly recreate this rose and all its intricacies on paper. Nonetheless I continued and finished off the painting, ignoring the finer details and trying to find shortcuts.

This takes me back to a chapter of a book I read when applying for university. The book was called ‘Why do buses come in threes?’ and the chapter was about Fibonacci numbers and their role in nature.

Fibonacci numbers are a part of an infinite sequence of numbers. Each Fibonacci number is the sum of the preceding two numbers, have a look:

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34…

And then there’s the golden ratio which you’ve definitely read about if you’ve read ‘The Da Vinci code.’ The golden ratio is approximately equal to 1.618. It’s an irrational number which means the numbers after the decimal point go on forever and have no pattern. We can’t express it as a fraction using whole numbers so instead we can keep it in surd form (a way of expressing a decimal number using square roots) and represent it by the Greek letter Phi:

Phi = (√5 + 1)/2 = 1.618033…

Try putting it into your calculator if you haven’t seen it before.

Interestingly, if you take any two consecutive numbers in the Fibonacci sequence and divide the larger number by the smaller you get a number that’s close to the golden ratio:



So what role does this play in nature? It has been observed that the leaves on a plant spiralling around the stem tend to be separated by the golden ratio, and the number of leaves in a spiral (for many plants) is a Fibonacci number. They’re arranged that way to maximise the exposure of sunlight to each leaf. Petals exhibit the same kind of behaviour and it’s not limited to plants. We observe the golden ratio in ourselves, in hurricanes and even galaxies.

Image from

The fact that this number is everywhere; in the flowers we give and receive; in things that are completely unrelated to one another reminds me how special our world is and that it’s important we appreciate and not neglect it.

And finally, whether you believe nature follows such patterns solely due to reasons stemming from the laws of physics and scientific theory, or that the universe is interlaced with a divine wisdom, I think we can all agree that maths is awesome 😀 It’s our way of transforming the complexities of nature into a language that helps us make sense of things. We are able to make observations, apply logic and find inspiration in the makeup of our natural world, and I think that is a big enough reason for the need to value and care for our planet. We may, in some ways, be a superior species but nature held the solutions to many of our problems way before we came into existence, let alone before we began to ponder them.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *