Naturalist, 13, studies fibonacci sequence in trees

The Young Naturalist Award, given to 13-year-old Aidan, who studied the Fibonacci sequence and applied it to trees, conjectured it made trees more efficient at capturing sunlight, and set off on a series of experiments and explorations:

when I went on a winter hiking trip in the Catskill Mountains in New York, I noticed something strange about the shape of the tree branches. I thought trees were a mess of tangled branches, but I saw a pattern in the way the tree branches grew. I took photos of the branches on different types of trees, and the pattern became clearer.

The branches seemed to have a spiral pattern that reached up into the sky. I had a hunch that the trees had a secret to tell about this shape. Investigating this secret led me on an expedition from the Catskill Mountains to the ancient Sanskrit poetry of India; from the 13th-century streets of Pisa, Italy, and a mysterious mathematical formula called the “divine number” to an 18th-century naturalist who saw this mathematical formula in nature; and, finally, to experimenting with the trees in my own backyard.

His conclusion:

The tree design takes up less room than flat-panel arrays and works in spots that don’t have a full southern view. It collects more sunlight in winter. Shade and bad weather like snow don’t hurt it because the panels are not flat. It even looks nicer because it looks like a tree. A design like this may work better in urban areas where space and direct sunlight can be hard to find.

4 thoughts on “Naturalist, 13, studies fibonacci sequence in trees

  1. Brilliant. This is what bio-architecture has been trying to achieve, in tree-shaped concepts, to utilize this arboring spiral principles in construction, in addition to photovoltaic panels and solar-thermal water heaters to cut down on energy use. In the Netherlands, Japan, Italy (Santa Monica) and I am sure other countries too it’s been tried, so I guess this young man has a chance to make or to see it happening. Nice post, Caterina.

  2. I love what this kid did, it dispels the notion that everything cool has already been invented… and at the same time it tells us that nature is way smarter than we areπŸ˜‰

  3. It’s cool how intuitive that kid is.
    Mandelbrot Set:
    The same principle based in bio-architecture developed fractal geometry allowing for complex web animation, it’s pretty loopy stuff (pun intended).
    I’m really happy I wandered onto this blog.πŸ™‚

  4. First time visitor – what a fascinating study. Having just read the entire thing, it’s almost scary how impressive a piece of work it is. Now, all we need is some kind of design that uses this idea…

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