Spirals in Nature


The visual motif of the spiral is one of the oldest and most enigmatic sacred images known.  It is one of the earliest examples of human creative expression, appearing in nearly every  society in the ancient world.  The spiral has universal appeal and has a mysterious resonance with the human spirit, it is complex yet simple, intriguing and beautiful.  The spiral pattern is found extensively in nature – encoded into plants, animals, humans, the earth and galaxies around us.  Mathematics can explain the complex algorithms, sequences and equations that make up a spiral pattern, but it can’t explain the lure and fascination of the spiral to the human heart.  Here are some beautiful examples of spirals from the natural world.  Click on all photo’s for a link to the original site – Enjoy!

Sunflower Spiral

Sunflower Spiral (www.ratemyscreensaver.com)

Millipede Spiral

Millipede Spiral (www.magickcanoe.com/millipede/narceus-spiral-sm.jpg)

Vine Tendrils

Vine Tendrils (wikimedia.org)

Goat with Spiral Horns

Goat with Spiral Horns (www.bukisa.com/articles)

Nautilus Shell with Logarithmic Spiral

Nautilus Shell with Logarithmic Spiral (wikipedia nautilus logarithmic spiral)

The Nautlius Shell is a beautiful natural spiral.  You can find more on the Nautilus at my previous post on Fractals in Nature.  If you like sea shell spirals, find more great spiral examples on Xahlee’s site.

Garden Snail Spiral shell

Garden Snail Spiral shell (xahlee.org/xamsi_calku/snail/snail.html)

Whirlpool

Whirlpool (www.unoriginal.co.ok/gallerymisc58.html)

Spirogyra - green algae under the microscope

Spirogyra - green algae under the microscope (photo:Jan Parmentier http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk)

Romanesco brassica

Romanesco brassica (wikipedia)

Red Cabbage, compound spiral

Red Cabbage, compound spiral (photo: Ian Alexander http://www.easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~iany)

Cactus - succulent spirals

Cactus - succulent spirals (wikipedia)

Fern Spiral - archimedes pattern

Fern Spiral - archimedes pattern (by lopolis on Flickr)

Human Fingerprint - whorl

Human Fingerprint - whorl (at http://www.ridgesandfurrows.com)

From a tiny baby to the massive expanse of universe, spirals are all around us.  They link us all – me to you, you to nature, and us to the greater universe.   Maybe that’s the intrigue – the symbol that joins humans, animals, plants, earth, galaxies and beyond.  Incredible.

Human hair, double crown.

Human hair, double crown.

Spiral Galaxy

Spiral Galaxy (at European Space Agency http://www.sci.esa/int/science-e/)

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Amazing Crop Circle Patterns


There are many theories about who or what makes the crop circles.  Theories include whirlwinds, earth energies, UFO’s and human hoaxers walking on planks.   Regardless of their origin I find them fascinating and beautiful.  Their geometry and patterns are exquisite, especially when you consider the intricacy of the mathematics and the enormous scale of the work (done in the dark!!).

2005 Waden Hill, Avebury, Wiltshire UK.  Copyright Steve Alexander.

2005 Waden Hill, Avebury, Wiltshire UK. Photo: Steve Alexander. Click photo for direct link to: http://www.temporarytemples.co.uk

Crop circles are geometric patterns that appear mysteriously in crop fields.  Research indicates the crop is not cut or broken, but is usually bent and laid flat in swirls.  Most patterns occur in cereal crops, usually wheat and barley, and appear to have been formed during the night.

2 Aug 2004 (UK).  copyright Steve Alexander

2 Aug 2004 (UK). Photo: Steve Alexander. Click photo for direct link to: http://www.temporarytemples.co.uk

Many crop formations are complex geometric structures and aren’t random patterns at all.  The crop circle below is a graphical representation of the number Pi.  You probably remember using Pi at school when calculating the circumference of a circle, it is an irrational number and is approximately 3.14159

Crop Circle of Pi - The Daily Mail UK.

Crop Circle of Pi - The Daily Mail UK (www.dailymail.co.uk)

Pi crop circle explained.

Pi crop circle explained (click photo for direct link to) http://www.thewalk.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/cropcircle3.jpg

There has been some interesting scientific work conducted into the geometry of the crop circle designs and shapes which suggest they are not meaningless or accidental, but actually depict complex ideas, numbers or shapes such as the Creation Numbers (3, 6, 9).   People have connected some of the crop circle symbols to subjects as diverse as star constellations, DNA, quantum physics, alchemy, and spirituality.   The crop circle below is a geometric pattern known as the Flower of Life pattern which is an important symbol in many cultures.

Crop Circle - Flower of Life pattern

Crop Circle - Flower of Life pattern. Click photo for direct link to: http://www.soulsofdistortion.nl

The Cube of Metatron crop circle (below) and the Tree of Life or Flower of Life crop circle pattern (above)  are derived from the sacred geometry of platonic solids which are patterns found throughout nature.

1 August 2007.  Sugar Hill, Aldbourne, Wiltshire UK. Copyright Steve Alexander.

1 August 2007. Sugar Hill, Aldbourne, Wiltshire UK. Photo: Steve Alexander. Click photo for direct link to: http://www.temporarytemples.co.uk

Platonic solids - Tree and Fruit of Life patterns

Wikipedia: Flower of Life

Some researchers are investigating Cymatics to investigate whether the crop circles are formed into naturally occuring geometric shapes due to vibration.  The picture below shows a water droplet containing a small colloidal particle.  The water is then vibrated and various geometric patterns occur which have been recognised in some crop circle formations.

Water particles make patterns under vibration.

Water particles make patterns under vibration. Click picture for direct link to http://www.sherdog.net/forums

Crop Circle - Wikipedia

Crop Circle - Wikipedia

Another interesting pattern

Another interesting pattern. Click photo to link direct to http://www.home.earthlink.net/

7 July 2008. Copyright Steve Alexander

7 July 2008. Photo: Steve Alexander. Click image to go direct to http://www.temporarytemples.co.uk/

Regardless of their origin or what is responsible for their formation in the dead of night, I’m sure you’ll agree these images and creations are wonderous and fascinating.  The search continues…

2005 Copyright Steve Alexander

2005 Photo: Steve Alexander. Click image to go direct to http://www.temporarytemples.co.uk/

Tidcome Down, Wiltshire UK. Copyright Steve Alexander

Tidcome Down, Wiltshire UK. Photo: Steve Alexander (click image to go direct to: http://www.temporarytemples.co.uk/

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Beautiful Home Libraries


leather-bound

A few years ago we spent several weekends visiting homes with the view to buy.  In between scheduled visits, we stopped in at a property that was way out of our league but we were killing time and thought we’d have a look.  Stella was a very professional agent and she patiently showed us around the entire place, despite us clearly not being true prospects.  She lead us through the six car garage, into the sauna and past the his and hers dressing rooms.  I knew this wasn’t going to be our new house, but it was quite a treat to walk through a fantastic mansion and dream a little.  All my sense and practicality evaporated when she ushered us into “The library”.   It’s something I’ve always wanted to create in my home.  A quiet retreat where I can curl up with a book, a lap dog, maybe a warm fire, some gentle music.  Ahhhhhhh.   We didn’t buy that house, but I can still remember the feeling of warmth it evoked and I still long to create my own space.  Here are some beautiful home libraries to inspire you (and me!).

Courtesy: The Rusty Typewriter

Courtesy: The Rusty Typewriter (www.therustytypewriter.com)

Courtesy: Lexis Interiors

Courtesy: Lexis Interiors (www.lexisint.com/proj01d.html)

Mark Twain's house library

Mark Twain's house library (www.architecture.about.com)

Here’s a neat little window seat to perch on, I love the lighting in this picture below.

Courtesy: Business Week

Courtesy: Business Week (http://images.businessweek.com)

Home Library: West Newton. Mass.USA

Home Library: West Newton. Mass.USA (http://images.businessweek.com/)

I’m sensing a lot of library designers have gone for the wood-floor-with-rug theme.  I like it!!
Courtesy: Manhattan Cabinetry

Courtesy: Manhattan Cabinetry (www.manhattancabinetry.com)

The Google office in Zurich (below)  has a library room exclusively for staff where they can meet and relax.
At work: Google Office, Zurich.

Photo by pineapplebun (Flickr) Staff library room: Google, Zurich.

I love the mantlepiece in the picture below.
Courtesy: Library Designs

Courtesy: Library Designs (www.librarydesigns.com/fireplacemantels.htm)

The two-tier, walnut-paneled library at Biltmore House (below) contains some 10,000 volumes and a fireplace surrounded by a carved, black-marble mantel. On the second floor of the library, there is a secret door that George Vanderbilt used to come down directly from his bedroom to locate or return a book.

Biltmore House, North Carolina USA.

Biltmore House, North Carolina USA. (www.honeymoons.about.com)

Courtesy: Neville Johnson

Photo: Neville Johnson (www.nevillejohnson.co.uk)

Grand Library (Neville Johnson)

Photo: Neville Johnsons - Grand Library (www.nevillejohnson.co.uk)

Courtesy: Neville Johnson

Photo: Neville Johnson (www.nevillejohnson.co.uk)

Jay Walker is the founder of the Priceline company and lives in Ridgefield, Connecticut USA. His personal library (picture below) occupies 3600 square feet (330 m2) and features books, atlases, artifacts and models of space exploration, cryptography and James Bond films.

Jay Walker - home library, Connecticut. USA.

Jay Walker - home library, Connecticut. USA. (wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Walker)

Ahhh, happy decorating – let me know how you go.

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An open door


I was reading a magazine last night and came across an article about a guy I knew ten years ago.  It was interesting to see what he’s been up to and where life has taken him.  It got me thinking about how some doors seem to open, while others close.  The door is a beautiful metaphor and has been adopted as a powerful symbol throughout human history.  The doorway can symbolise hope and opportunity, a new start and direction.  It’s a threshold, a passage from one place or state to another.  It’s an entrance, or exit where we anticipate what is on the other side.  It can represent the unknown, a choice or change.  As well as a warm welcome, doors often symbolise closure, leaving and ending.  Here are some beautiful images of doorways from around the world.  Try not to rush them, there’s some detail not to be missed.  Click on each photo to link to the original.  See what they say to you.  Enjoy.

Photo: Andrew P Brooks

Photo: Andrew P Brooks at flickr.com/photos92788661@N00/265494540/

Rome.  Photo: Victoria0805

Rome. Photo by Victoria0805 at flickr.com/photos/ztransmissions/725736472/

Photo: lensational

Photo: by lensational at flickr.com/photos/irene-lensational/3053004345/

Cambodia.  Photo: John Daiken

Cambodia. Photo by John Daiken at flickr.com/photos/59303791@N00/522910339/

el-jazzar mosque.  Photo:natashap

el-jazzar mosque. Photo:natashap at flickr.com/photos/natashap/2478202976/

Photo: TinaManthorpe

Photo: TinaManthorpe at flickr.com/photos/84265607@N00/1167791480/

Fountains Abbey, Nth Yorkshire.  Photo: John Daiken

Fountains Abbey, Nth Yorkshire. Photo: John Daiken at Flickr.com/photos/59303791@N00/1364544241/

Photo: Arthur Koek

Photo: Arthur Koek at flickr.com/photos/arthurkoek/

Photo: jefg99

Photo by: jefg99 at flickr.com/photos/21066820@N06/

Photo: giulifff

Photo by: giulifff at flickr.com/photos/giulifff/2333287594/

Photo: pyst

Photo by: pyst at flickr.com/photos/21603627@N00/

The Tao Te Ching – verse 47 (translation by Ursula K. Le Guin)

You don’t have to go out the door to know what goes on in the world.  You don’t have to look out the window to see the way of heaven.  The farther you go, the less you know.  So the wise soul doesn’t go, but knows; doesn’t look but sees; doesn’t do but gets it done.

Photo: nancz

Photo by: nancz at flickr.com/photos/nancycoyle/492157246/

Peacocks


The peacock is a magnificent bird.  It’s a creature of inspiration to most of us,  who know (or hope) at some level that we are lovely, but are often intimidated about displaying our true colours in all their splendour.  The peacock displays his beautiful plumage for all to see.

Beautiful Blue Peacock.  Photo by: Absinthius (Flickr)
Beautiful Blue Peacock. Photo by: Absinthius (Flickr)

A peacock feather is a great example of a fractal in nature.  Its iridescent plumage is remarkable and stunning.  The white feathers have a pearlescent quality about them and reflect a different hue depending on the viewing angle.

White Beauty.  Photo: Guiseppe Toscano

White Beauty. Photo by: Guiseppe Toscano (on Flickr)

Woven into the myths and belief systems of cultures worldwide, the peacock presents itself through the science of alchemy, astronomy, Islam and Christianity, as well as Egyptian, Chinese and Indian cultures.  India has adopted the peacock as its national bird.
Peacock - Warwickshire Castle.  Photo: Haribo

Peacock - Warwickshire Castle. Photo by: Haribo (Flickr)

Some types of art depict peacocks looking backwards, towards their own tail.  A peacock’s feathers are renewed each year so this is considered a symbol for renewal.  Cultures around the world often pair peacocks and doves as focal points in the Tree of Life designs.  The one below is from India.

Tree of Life Peacock.  (exotic indian art)

Tree of Life Peacock (www.exoticindiaart.com/product/PB77/)

Peacocks are pure of heart.  They pair with a mate and are loyal and faithful to their partners.  To many, they also symbolise eternal love.   The bright spots are known as ‘eyes’ and inspired the Greek myth that the goddess Hera placed the hundred eyes of her slain giant (Argus) on the tail of her favourite bird.

Blue Eyes.  Photo: TodayIsAGoodDay

Blue Eyes. Photo by: TodayIsAGoodDay (Flickr)

Peacocks are a symbol of beauty, reminding us to take pleasure in life.  It is a symbol of beauty, prosperity, royalty, love, compassion, soul and peace.   In buddhism the peacock symbolises purity and their feathers are highly prized.

White Peacock.  Photo:Be Khe

White Peacock. Photo by: Be Khe (Flickr)

I love this next picture.  It’s a hybrid species, a cross between a white and blue peacock.

The White and the Blue.  Photo: Chi Lui

The White and the Blue. Photo by: Chi Lui (Flickr)

In one of Aesop’s fables, the peacock goes to Juno (the Roman name for the greek goddess, Hera) and he complains that the nightingale has a sweet song, and he does not.  Juno replied that the peacock has great beauty and size.  The peacock asked what good was his beauty without a great voice.  Juno wisely replied that every creature has its gifts and faults, and they should be content with all they have and who they are.

Sand Mandala – Tibetan Art


In 2001, two Buddhist monks constructed a sand mandala in the Ackland Art Museum in North Carolina USA.  It measured over five feet in diameter and is an exquisite piece of Tibetan Art.  Construction is a delicate and painstaking process.

Drawing the Mandala map

DRAWING THE MANDALA MAP. Click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum (www.ackland.org.art/exhibitions/buddhistart)

Throughout construction the monks pour millions of grains of fine sand, (usually coloured stones that have been ground) from traditional metal funnels called chakpur.

Ackland Art Gallery: Mandala in progress

MANDALA IN PROGRESS - click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum

The intricate patterns and symbols within the piece are astounding.   I love the vibrant colours, symmetry and symbolism of the work and can appreciate looking at the smallest corner or the piece as a whole.

Ackland Art Gallery:  Mandala close up

CLOSE UP - click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum

Ackland Art Gallery: Mandala closeup

CLOSER STILL. click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum

Ackland Art Gallery: the mandala grows

MANDALA GROWING. click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum

Once complete, the monks perform a closing ceremony that is very sacred and symbolic.  The final product is an absolute wonder.  Imagine a solid week of work creating this masterpiece.  Imagine how your neck and shoulders might ache from being hunched over the board for all that time, gently and carefully placing grains of sand in just the right places.
Ackland Art Gallery:  mission accomplished

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum

The closing ceremony is a dismantling.  The monks who took hours to create the mandala also sweep up the mandala, capturing again the coloured sand.  (I want to cry – Noooooo!!!!)
Ackland Art Gallery: dismantling the mandala

BUT FOR A MOMENT. Click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum

In Tibetan culture this symbolises the transient nature of life and the impermanence of everything that exists.   I suppose it means you really have to treasure something right in the moment, and remember it.
Ackland Art Gallery: sweeping the sand

THE RITUAL. Click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum

The sand or coloured stone is never used twice.  In some ceremonies it is given to the audience as a blessing, and reminder.  Sometimes the sand is swept up, wrapped in silk and taken to a body of running water where it is released back into nature.  Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, I guess.  There is something lovely about that idea – it started as rock, came from the earth, was pummelled into sand, was handled carefully and deliberately, became beautiful, was celebrated then carefully returned to its source.
In Tibetan ritual arts, the collaboration and execution of the sand mandala is considered much more important than the final product.  It sounds like another way of saying the journey is more important than the destination.  One day, it might just sink in…

Fractals in Nature


Fractals are only a recent discovery although they’ve been with us for such a long time.  Benoit Mandelbrot discovered fractals in 1975 and described them as shapes that are “self similar”.  The shape of a fractal is similar regardless of the magnification.  To create a fractal, you start with a simple shape and duplicate it, again and again and again.   Think of a fern – each frond is a miniature replica of the whole.  It’s not identical, but it’s similar in nature.  Here is six of the best fractals you’ll find in nature.

1.  Lightning

Lightning fractal

Lightning fractal ©Photographer: Goran Stojanovic | Agency: Dreamstime.com

In nature, we see fractals all around us.  Most of the fractals in nature are not infinite.  They display self-similar structure over a smaller and finite scale (otherwise we’d have supersized, never ending cauliflowers !!).  Natural fractals include clouds, snowflakes, blood vessels, river networks and coastlines.

2.  Nautilus Shell

Aren’t these amazing?  The nautilus shell is a fantastic example of sacred geometry.

3.  Leaves and veins

The exciting thing about fractals is that you never get to the end.  Zoom in and you’ll see a similar pattern.  Zoom again and you’ll just get more detail, and more, and more.

4. Romanesco (cabbage cousin)

Romanesco fractal

Romanesco fractal (wikipedia) and Flickr: docman

The photographer (Docman) who shot this photo didn’t actually cook and eat it.  He did a whole series of photos about the Romanesco, including its decay.

5.  Peacock feathers

Feathers are great examples of fractals.  (PS – no it’s not an albino peacock).  For more white peacock pictures and info, check out my post “The Peacock” here.

6.  Mountain Ranges

Mountain Range Fractal

Mountain Range Fractal (www.ces.clemson.edu/semaps/tn/gsmt-a.jpg)

Mountain ranges and river systems create fabulous fractals as they branch off to other systems.

If you’d like to check out some more info, images or fractal generating programs have a look at Spanky Fractal Database.  Enjoy!