Cactus Mathby Kate Kaemerle on Aug. 01, 2011, under Education, Nature, Plants
And you thought math was just for calculating your bills.
University of Arizona mathematicians examined the beautiful patterns in cacti and explored the structures, which they found were based on Fabonacci numbers that often occur in plants from daisies to cacti. Patrick Shipman and Alan Newell at UA found that the patterns in the ribs of the saguaro cactus are designed by nature for a good reason – to be elastic.
For centuries people have observed numeric patterns in the plant world. Mathematicians put a name to it in 1202. The Fibonacci number pattern (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233 and so on) is natures way of designing efficiency, whether it’s in the leaf, flower, seed or stem pattern of plants or the ribs of a saguaro cactus. A combination of forces contribute to the curious numerology of the plant world. It involves geometry, biochemistry, elastic buckling and mechanical forces.
Call it nature’s numerology. Next time you look at the ribs of a saguaro or the seed pattern of a sunflower, marvel at the patterns and spirals that follow this mathematical pattern.
Psychology Today has a story about the University of Arizona mathematicians and their findings. Geeky but readable and fascinating. Read the whole article here.