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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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!