Numbers are everywhere. My head is filled with numbers. I don’t think I have a great intellectual capacity or a brilliant memory but, like most people, I have dozens of mobile and land-line telephone numbers in my head (some obsolete), my children’s shoe sizes, car registration, National Insurance number, staff number from former employment, bank account, three PINs, numerous birthdays. It’s a wonder our heads don’t explode. We certainly do seem to have to commit an awful lot of numbers to memory just to go about our daily business. Would one single number on an identity card solve all these issues? Would it save having an NHS number then an NI number, passport number, work number, driving licence. Would life be simpler? It probably would but there are so many disadvantages to ID cards that I would prefer not to go down that road. It is too reminiscent of Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner saying, ” I am not a number. I am a person.”
Dan Brown’s bestselling book ‘The Da Vinci Code’ got me thinking about numbers as at the beginning the Fibonacci sequence is explained. In mathematics, Fibonacci numbers are this sequence of numbers:0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34,55,89…As you can see, it is a pattern.The next number is found by adding up the two numbers that precede it.
Many aren’t sure how Fibonacci could possibly be relevant to their real lives so why should they even attempt to remember him or his sequence? In reality, Fibonacci numbers are something you come across practically every day. For instance, many numbers in the Fibonacci sequence can be linked to ordinary things we see around us such as the branching in trees, the arrangement of leaves on a stem, the flowering of an artichoke, or the spikes of a pineapple. In addition, numerous claims of Fibonacci numbers are found in common sources such as the spirals of shells or the curve of waves.It seems impossible that these pretty random things should have a rational root in these numbers-but they do.I am no mathematician and numbers can leave me cold but it is nevertheless amazing to know that if you look at a sunflower at the seed arrangement in its centre, you can see what looks like spiral patterns curving left and right or clockwise and anti-clockwise. Incredibly, if you count these spirals, the total will be a Fibonacci number. Many other plants in nature also illustrate this sequence. For instance, buttercups have 5 petals; lilies have 3 petals; some delphiniums have 8; marigolds have 13 petals; daisies can be found with 34 or 55 or even 89 petals. Also important in the world around us is the so-called ‘Golden Ratio’ which is is a special number approximately equal to 1.618.It appears many times in geometry, art, architecture and other areas. The idea behind it is that if you divide a line into two parts so that: the longer part divided by the smaller part is also equal to
the whole length divided by the longer part, then you will have the golden ratio.This ratio is supposedly the most pleasing to the eye- it is found in nature in flowers, plants, pine cones, fruits and vegetables, the human face and hand, etc.
My other thoughts on numbers are that we are increasingly bad at them, so many children say they hate maths now, there is almost a fear of numbers. We have become incredibly reliant on computers and shop tills to do the work. When I worked in a pub I was capable of mentally adding up a round of drinks but all bars these days seem to have a computerised till, negating the need for any mathematical skill. Mobile phones too store our numbers to the extent that many don’t even know their own phone number, let alone anyone else’s. Perhaps in future we won’t even need mathematics or numbers. I did pass Maths ‘O’ Level and used a slide rule-I have no idea now what it was for.