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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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.

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!