about this blog



I started this blog in 2008. It started mainly as a way of tracking the evolution of my dry garden, and that led to an interest in photography and in the creatures that live in the garden. It's still about the garden and wildlife, but now my passion is thinking about how we humans can learn to co-exist with wild animals and plants, especially in urban areas.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

mathematics and patterns of nature



To appreciate maths you don't need to be a highly educated person, adept at manipulating abstract symbols and equations. Maths is all around us, embodied in nature. Sometimes nature has such complicated shapes that past scientists found it difficult to believe their eyes, let alone understand and work out the underlying formulae. Margaret Wertheim writes about mathematics as performance and as play. Nature just does it. It doesn't need to understand mathematical formulae. And neither do we.

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman was notable because he was such a well rounded person. He loved jazz and travelling to remote places as much as he loved science. Asked once whether his scientific knowledge and understanding spoiled his appreciation of nature, he said it enhanced it. 

I'm no mathematician but looking at these patterns it adds another dimension when you try to imagine how the waveforms of light, electrons and atoms managed to achieve such brilliant mathematical coding. It's not that they can think, or that they're intelligent. Not the way we traditionally understand intelligence anyway. They just do maths. And so can we.

Einstein reportedly said that imagination was more important than knowledge. I think that quote is probably a bit dangerous at this post-truth time, but maybe we could safely say that imagination is as important as knowledge?




In the Sub-Antarctic Plant House, Royal Tasmania Botanical Gardens, Hobart



Tree Fern Dicksonia fibrosa

16 comments:

  1. Maybe it depends on the circumstances? It seems to me that knowledge is essential if one wants to rule one of the most important countries in the world.

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    1. I agree, Denise. I didn't mean to write about Trump. It was inspired by Margaret Wertheim's piece that maths need not be inaccessible and scary, that it is all around us and can be appreciated even without formal academic qualifications.

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  2. Wonderful textures and patterns in your photos!! Happy getting-ready-for-spring! Shady G

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    1. thks SG, and for you happy getting-ready for fall.

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  3. I agree: The patterns are fascinating. From spirals to spheres to hexagons to branching--the patterns are all around us, and the math of all these natural patterns is beautiful. :)

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    1. it's all so wonderful, and I am so enjoying being back blogging about it.

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  4. Finding patterns is at the heart of math. You've shared some delightful patterns.

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    1. thanks, Peter, it's exciting to think we can all be mathematicians!

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  5. Love the photo of the curling palm tree or whatever kind of cycad it is.

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    1. Me too, Linda, there's something about ferns that is very compelling.

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  6. and the Fibonacci spirals that fascinate me again each time I see them. Thanks for the Subantarctic glimpse.

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    1. I've just learned about Fibonacci - it certainly adds a layer to the fascination.

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  7. Hi Sue i just found this in looking at your site. Yes nature is so amazing, and i remember the Fibonacci numbers which are incredibly describing nature. Nature is just there governed by a bigger law, and we just want to explain what we observed so we found mathematics. Eventually, math helped us with our future endeavors. Not many in the world strive to be just like other things within it, that is to be just BE, governed by the bigger LAW!

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    1. I've just discovered the Fibonacci numbers, it's very exciting learning to see nature in extra dimensions.

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