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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pine cones at a Wedding?

Photo Credit: Sand Hills Wedding Expo
You might wonder what a wedding has to do with the Fibonacci Sequence. Well, nothing really. Wait - that's not totally true. A part of me wonders if I should have waited two days for my own wedding so that it would have been on 8/13, but no, my wedding was wonderful (right honey?) and the date was the perfect one for us. So what's with the wedding photo?

Let me take you back. Last December, in the depths of what turned out to be a record-breaking Midwest winter, one which saw record amounts of snow and ice, saw Lake Michigan (Lake Michigan!!!) freeze over, I flew out to Illinois to take part in my niece's wedding. It was cold - really cold. In fact, in the photo below, taken in March, 2014, Jimmy Fallon, new host of The Tonight Show, emerges from Lake Michigan after completing the Polar Plunge. Look closely in the background and you can see the walls of ice that a BULLDOZER had to break up so there was a small channel for all of the people to run into the lake. By the way, who is that RIPPED guy on the left side of the picture? Yikes!
Jimmy Fallon emerges from Lake Michigan, fully clothed in a
suit, after completing the Polar Plunge to raise money for
Special Olympics (and prove to Mayor Rahm Emanuel that
he really is a tough guy).
Photo credit: redalertpolitics.com
Anyway, I was at the wedding, MC-ing the reception somewhat unexpectedly (thanks to my brother for bailing), and to my surprise, there were pine cones on the tables. Pine cones...at a wedding...in Illinois (are there even pine trees in Illinois?)...in December. In fact, here is a picture (Photo #1) of the exact pine cone that caught my eye. I brought it home to Washington state with me.

Photo #1
The actual pine cone from the wedding reception. Sent from
Oregon, found in Illinois, and brought home to
Washington for safekeeping.
Photo credit: Tom Robinson 
Now, there is a story, and eventually I will even connect this back to Fibonacci. But please indulge me. My niece, Anna, met her husband, Jeremy, while both were visiting my brother (her uncle) in Cannon Beach, Oregon, many years ago when they were just kids, barely teenagers. Their story is complicated and hard to follow, but suffice to say that the pine cones were a gift from the Oregon part of the family as wedding decorations to commemorate their first meeting many years ago. Ok, great, so where does Fibonacci come in?

As I ate my dinner and prepared myself to run the show (reception - again, last minute fill in for my brother), I looked closely at the pine cone and started counting. Actually, I first noticed that like the pineapple, this pine cone had spirals - that its pieces (anyone know what they are called? the little things that stick out of a pine cone?) were not arranged in a straight line, but in a spiral pattern. In fact, there were multiple spirals on it, just like on a pineapple.

And so I counted. First I started from the bottom (see Photo #2) and counted counter-clockwise spirals. There were....13.

Then I counted clockwise spirals. Yep - 8. Weird, isn't it? I mean...why? Why does it always seem to be THOSE numbers? I don't know. We may never know. 

Photo #2
I know it's a little hard to count the spirals, but feel free to give it a shot.
13 rotating counter-clockwise, 8 rotating clockwise.
Photo credit: Tom Robinson

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