29 April 2012


Do you recognise these numbers? What sort of sequence they form? Of course you do: it's a (or should I say the?) Fibonacci Series, displayed on the wall of a design firm in Dublin. It's a quirky and lovely thing; I presume it's there to tell all that the designers within are familiar with the golden mean (1.61803…) and are practised practitioners of proportionate and elegant designs.

The notion of the golden mean has been around for a long time, applied to painting and architecture (and even to the construction of a sonnet, see Don Paterson's introduction to his 101 Sonnets, From Shakespeare to Heaney).
Fibonacci sequence

You may notice water running down the sign--more about that anon--but note too the spiral ironwork, which brings me to these:

Fibonacci fern, Pteridium aquilinum, unfurling
(photo by BvG)

Fibonacci shell
Walking the woods last weekend, the stitchwort was blooming, the fresh beech leaves translucent, and the ferns were unfurling. This last brought the Fibonacci spirals to mind, seen in the ferns, but also in shells, ammonites, even galaxies. Fabulous. The ability to decipher, appreciate and even enjoy Mathematics skipped a generation in my family, moving directly from my father to my two sons. They all appreciate that, as Graham Farmelo says:
"Great equations ... share with poetry an extraordinary power -- poetry is the most concise and highly charged form of language, just as equations are the most succinct form of understanding of the aspect of physical reality that they describe."
from It Must Be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science

I do remember solving equations and being delighted at the elegance of the solution, which could only come to one conclusion; but that was a long time ago, and now I reserve my delight for things I can understand more easily, like Fibonacci spirals, or 60 degree angles on basalt columns...

But back to the woods:

Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea

Fresh! Translucent beech leaves, Fagus sylvatica
That glimpse of the sunlight through the beech leaves last weekend was just that - a glimpse. What a month it has been - rain, wind, cold. Heavy rain has brought the blossoms down in drifts, there was flooding on the seafront in Dublin this week, and a couple of weeks ago, this waterspout off Bray Head. (Here's a radar animation of the thunderstorm that generated it).

Rain brings down the blossom, wind the leaves

Here's hoping for a better May.

Fibonacci Schnauzer


  1. Canonymous03 May, 2012

    Fibonacci floof!! A great cameo appearance at the end there.

    On the poetic equations front, you might appreciate this:)

    1. poetry and mathematics... and all on the one blog. excellent.