Watch: The Beautiful Visualization of the Numbers of Nature

A seashell is one of the most well-known examples of the golden ratio spiral in nature. (Photo: Tramont_ana/Shutterstock)

Regular readers of mine know that I am a great fan of fractal geometry, the Fibonacci sequence, and other numbers of nature. Fractals are probably best known to the general public as the trippy graphics found on Grateful Dead posters. Fractals are marked by self-similarity, a quality defined as showing similar form at all scales of size. I put together a story about fractals found in nature that shows how the numbers show up in nature in everything from rivers to lightning.

The first nine numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are:

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21

The sequence starts with 0 and 1. To find the third number, you add the first and second number. To find the fourth number, you add the second and third number. The fifth number is the the sum of the third and fourth. And so on forever. The tenth number of the sequence is 34, or 13 + 21.

To find any number in the Fibonacci sequence, you just add the preceding two numbers in the sequence. This algorithm sounds simple, and it is, but it also turns out that the Fibonacci sequence is responsible for great complexity—namely a large part of how the natural world is put together. The Fibonacci sequence can be found in the formation of sunflowers, galaxies, cellular structure, hurricanes, and honeybees.

My friend Waylon Lewis over at the ever-excellent Elephant Journal, found this wonderful video of the Fibonacci sequence being imagined both by graphics and nature that was put together by digital artist Cristóbal Vila. Give it a watch here: