The Fibonacci Rectangles and Shell Spirals

Fibonacci Rectangles And Shell Spirals

We can make another picture showing the Fibonacci numbers 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,.. if we start with two small squares of size 1 next to each other. On top of both of these draw a square of size 2 (=1+1).

We can now draw a new square - touching both a unit square and the latest square of side 2 - so having sides 3 units long; and then another touching both the 2-square and the 3-square (which has sides of 5 units). We can continue adding squares around the picture, each new square having a side which is as long as the sum of the latest two square's sides. This set of rectangles whose sides are two successive Fibonacci numbers in length and which are composed of squares with sides which are Fibonacci numbers, we will call the Fibonacci Rectangles.

The next diagram shows that we can draw a spiral by putting together quarter circles, one in each new square. This is a spiral (the Fibonacci Spiral). A similar curve to this occurs in nature as the shape of a snail shell or some sea shells. Whereas the Fibonacci Rectangles spiral increases in size by a factor of Phi (1.618..) in a quarter of a turn (i.e. a point a further quarter of a turn round the curve is 1.618... times as far from the centre, and this applies to all points on the curve), the Nautilus spiral curve takes a whole turn before points move a factor of 1.618... from the centre.

Click on the shell picture (a slice through a Nautilus shell) to expand it.

These spiral shapes are called Equiangular or Logarithmic spirals. The links from these terms contain much more information on these curves and pictures of computer-generated shells.


^ The Curves of Life Theodore A Cook, Dover books, 1979, ISBN 0 486 23701 X. A Dover reprint of a classic 1914 book.

13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987 ..More..

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