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Nature, beauty and maths
How maths influences nature and the representation of beauty
Nature is beautiful, so many different, unique shapes and patterns. Such irregular dimensions and variations appear too random to have any mathematical connection.
Professor Ian Stewart our mathematical expert says this isn't the case. The appearance of beauty in nature is strongly influenced by numbers and our perceptions of beauty are connected to mathematics too.
Winning the lottery
Maths and the money market
Travel and traffic
Nature, beauty and maths
Magic numbers
The Production of beauty
Audio Available  Beauty is mathematical
Have you noticed the spirals on a sunflower?
Look carefully and you will notice the seeds are arranged in spiral patterns. Count the number of seeds in each spiral and you produce numbers such as 55 in one direction and 89 in the other direction, or 34 in one direction and 55 in the other. These pairs of number are known as Fibonacci numbers. Professor Ian Stewart explains that these numbers correspond very closely with growth and design in plants.
"Those numbers are clues to the dynamic process, which is the way the plant grows" .
  All of the different plants grow in a similar pattern. New parts of the plant are arranged at the tip of a shoot in a spiral pattern. If you do the maths on the spiral pattern Fibonacci numbers fall out.  
Audio Available Nature's pattern book
How do you explain the patterns on Angelfish, Tigers or Zebras?
  Professor Ian Stewart suggests that with all the different patterns that can be found in the animal kingdom there is a kind of hidden unity.  
  "It's as if there is a kind of universal pattern book with a particular kind of mathematical system that generates all the patterns in the book"  
  Theory suggests that the stripes in animals such as Zebras or Tigers are created by waves of chemicals diffusing through the tissues of the animals at a very early stage in their development. The patterns for the adult are pretty much laid down in the embryo.  
"If you study the mathematics of these waves you get the same kind of patterns of waves. If you look at waves on the ocean they arrange themselves in parallel rows just like the stripes on a tiger and mathematically there is a unity in all of these things."
Audio Available Pretty is what changes
  What is it about flowers that we perceive as beautiful?  
  Ian Stewart suggests that evolution may have played a role in our perception of beauty. People are sensitive to changes in a pattern, we are intrigued by patterns that don't quite work.  
  "If you are going to woo your lady friend you should not give her absolutely perfect flowers you should give her flowers with a little bit of character."  
  The maths of art  
Audio Available A world without perspective
As we've grown up in a world where perspective is given, it seems very odd that someone had to conceive how to portray it.
  Tom Korner tells us that before the Renaissance there was no perspective in paintings. People knew that things looked different. In older paintings things in the distance looked smaller but there was no consistency.  
 

It was a young Florentine called Brunelleschi who constructed a painting with a pinhole in it where you held a mirror on the other side, and viewed through the pinhole, the reflection.

 
"For people of that time it was like virtual reality, it was extraordinary, something that was talked about and talked about" 
  What he had done was remarkably simple. You imagine the eye connected by straight threads to each object and then the painting is just a plane, a piece of glass cutting those threads and where each thread passes through the plane you put a spot of paint.  
  "Leonardo Da Vinci thought you could not be an artist without being a mathematician"  
Audio Available The world's favourite painting
Are there common elements in paintings that people are attracted to?
According to Ian Stewart worldwide with the exception of the Dutch everybody likes a landscape with some water and some mountains in the background, a few trees and a few animals. The belief is that this goes back to when we lived on the Savannahs and this sort of landscape was a safe place to be.
 
 
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