A Year in My Yard: Patterns
The ability to identify patterns is one trait that truly separates us from many other life forms. It is our innate ability to see patterns in nature that have given us an advantage over our competition. Instead of simple depressions in the ground our ancestors recognized the patterns of toes, hooves, and claws in tracks giving them the ability to meticulously track their prey. We also have the inborn ability to recognize faces (a pattern of eyes, nose and mouth) from birth. This unique ability explains why some claim to see Jesus or the Virgin Mary in their toast or a myriad of other objects. The ability to learn the patterns of nature is also the very foundation of science. Those individuals who are
The ability to learn the patterns of nature is also the very foundation of science. Those individuals who were the best at identifying patterns in the tracks were more successful than those who could not. The process of tracking involves an observation, hypothesis, test, peer-review, and conclusion; all of the steps of the, so called, scientific method. As our ancient ancestors began to live a more civilized life they began to notice more subtle patterns in nature. These patterns eventually developed into math.
The mathematical patterns found in nature are so ingrained that is often wondered if math was invented or discovered. As we uncover more about the natural world, down to the quantum level, we begin to see these same mathematical patterns repeated at an ever smaller scale.
One of the most famous patterns in nature is the Fibonocci Sequence (0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13…). This sequence can be seen in snail shells, flowers, pinecones, and pineapples. The sequence is calculated by summing the two previous number in the sequence. This means the next number in the sequence above would be 8+13 or 21. The best example of this pattern can be seen in composite flowers like this daisy below.
And just because it’s a totally cliche picture….
Looking at the center of the daisies picture above we see an intersecting spiral pattern going in both a clockwise and counter-clockwise direction. The arc of each spiral fits the Fibonacci sequence as it spirals away from the center of the flower.
Check out another example of the same pattern in this coneflower.
Although a bit more subtle than the previous examples the clover pictured above has an abbreviated spiral pattern to its flower.
Fibonacci’s patterns are usually not obvious but once you know the pattern you will begin to see it everywhere. Finding an appreciating patterns in nature is more than looking at flowers and such, it is recognizing one of the fundamental abilities that define our species. Go outside, look for patterns, and appreciate your abilities.