1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55…
At first, it just seems like a string of numbers, perhaps one of those “what’s the next number in the sequence?” questions you remember from SAT or IQ tests from your school days. But these numbers, I assure you, are something completely different.
Although the interesting properties of this sequence were first noticed by a Sanskrit writer called Pingala around 500BC, it was Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa (also known as Fibonacci) who first studied them in the West in the early 1200s. Because of Leonardo’s work, the numbers are now known as “Fibonacci numbers” or a “Fibonacci sequence”. The pattern is created, simply enough, by adding the two previous numbers in the sequence to make a new number, and adding that new number to the previous one in the sequence and so on.
But why is this interesting? Because the Fibonacci sequence is literally everywhere in nature. According to Wikipedia, the “branching patterns of leaves in grasses and flowers, branching in bushes and trees, the arrangement of pines on a pine cone, seeds on a raspberry, and spiral patterns in horns and shells” are all done in Fibonacci sequences. The genealogy of male bees follows a Fibonacci sequence. I can personally tell you from my days in Liberal Arts Math that, with the exception of 2 or 3 oddball varieties, every species of daisy has a number of petals that follow the Fibonacci sequence.
But wait – there’s more! If you divide a Fibonacci number by the one that precedes it, you’ll notice an interesting pattern starting to take shape. The result of the equation always remains close to 1.618, which is also known as the Golden Ratio. The Golden Ratio is considered (in the West, anyway) to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing forms around. The facade of the Parthenon is based on the Golden Ratio. The shape of most books and cereal boxes is based on the Golden Ratio. Read up on this stuff… it’s really interesting!