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Numbers in Nature

In our world it can be easy to find patterns. For me, this is one of my favorite pastimes. I am a dork, finding an acronym for every license plate I see. I named my friends car, with a license plate NVC, not very cool. She doesn’t like it much. I also will try to walk on the sidewalk fitting the same number of steps into every concrete block. But for me my favorite place to find patterns and mathematics in is nature.

For example, you can cut a tree down and examine the number of rings in the trunk telling us how long the tree has lived. Now I do not advocate cutting any trees down, but if we’ve got to we might as well learn a little from it.

NiN2.jpg Another example is the scales on a snake or any other reptile. When looking closely you can see how geometric each scale is. They all look identical to each other as well. For other animals that don’t have scales their fur or hair resides on the body in very specific patterns for various reasons.

Like the peacock, whose feathers are in a very particular pattern. Sexual selection has caused the male peacock to grow the brightest and biggest tail to attract a mate. This exact pattern of feathers will allow this peacock to reproduce and pass down this trait or die without any offspring, even though the heavy tail makes it more difficult for the peacock to run away from predators. This pattern in nature has a very specific goal.

The snowflake always intrigues me because of how symmetrical it is. I always wondered how a small amount of water frozen to the perfect degree can create such a symmetrical piece of ice only to melt much of the time as soon as it hits the ground.

Flowers are also quite mathematical. Each flower has a very different type of pedal and a different amount of pedals, but it usually depends on the species. Colors also vary within and between species of flowers, and you will very rarely see a mixture of two different colors or flowers. And that usually happens when humans intervene for cross-breeding. Nature however sticks to its patterns as stays within specie borders.


Do you know how often (or if at all) the number 216 appears in the natural world?