The spiral of time and the spiral of the universe you might say! And so the spiral dropped into my life once again, from the golden to the marvellous! The spiral to me is all about evolution, growth, letting go, release, connectivity, union, revolutions of time, the stars, planets and the way of natural progress, which directly related to the Hellenic idea of the Cosmos.
"The human mind always makes progress, but it is a progress made in spirals."
~Madame de Stael
It was in the Dinosaur museum of all places that the spiral of a long extinct Ammonite caught my attention. Ammonites are perhaps the most widely known fossil, with a ribbed spiral-form shell. They lived in the seas between 240-65 million years ago, and became extinct along with the dinosaurs. The name “ammonite” originates from the Greek ram-horned god called Ammon , also related to the Egyptian god Amun!
Ammonites are the great great great great great great x 10 grandfathers/mothers of such creatures as octopus, squid, cuttlefish and the nautilus. The nautilus is the creature I’d like to pick out; its shell is perhaps the best example of a logarithmic spiral in the natural world! The logarithmic spiral is also known as the spira mirabilis, which is Latin for “miraculous spiral”. This spiral is different to the golden spiral in that the spiral gets bigger but the shape isn’t altered as with a spiral using the Fibonacci sequence.
Another example of an approximate miraculous spiral can be seen in the bands of the tropical cyclones that make up such weather systems as a hurricane.
According to my research hurricane winds blow in a counter clockwise direction into the storms low pressure relatively calm, roughly circular centre, called the eye.
Around the eye is what’s called the eyewall, a wall of thunderclouds all spiralling toward it and long bands of rain appear to spiral inward to the eyewall – these are called spiral rainbands! Powerful, scary, and brilliantly spiral!
Going a little further out and off of our planet brings me to one of my favourite spirals of all time – spiral galaxies! Spiral galaxies consist of a flat, rotating disk containing stars, gas and dust, and a central concentration of stars known as the bulge! These are surrounded by a much fainter halo of stars.
They are called spiral galaxies because of the spiral structure that extends from the centre into the disk; the spiral arms themselves are sites of ongoing star formation and are often brighter because of the young hot stars that inhabit them. Excitingly our own galaxy, the Milky Way has several spiral arms, each of which is roughly a logarithmic spiral!
The picture to the left shows a spiral galaxy known as the whirlpool galaxy, which brings me back the earth with a bump… well oceans, rivers, ponds and the bottom of waterfalls anyway! I’m talking about whirlpools firstly, this is a vortex of water that’s being forced through a narrow straight, on the surface a whole forms in the centre which sucks in air and other objects including in the extreme a boat and humans, but the water spirals inwards just like a storm and is sucked down into a spiralling vortex.
On a quick note before I return to dry land, have you ever dropped a stone into a pond? Or watched as a nut or a leaf or a seed falls into a still pond? Maybe you would have noticed the spiral of the ripple outward from the point the object hit the waters surface!
OK I’m back on dry land and the list continues on, I want to look at plants next. There is a type of aloe called a spiral aloe in English which is only found in the cool and rocky crevices of the Drakensberg mountains in
South Africa also known as the
dragon mountains. It has a strikingly symmetrical, five pointed spiral of
growth about it which is absolutely stunning!
Pinecones can do spirals; they can also do mathematics, specifically the golden ratio! All cones grow in spirals, starting from the base where the stalk was, and going round and round the sides until they reach the top, the best way to see this is from the bottom, I was surrounded by pine cones on holiday, and believe you me it blew my mind to see the spiral when I was collecting some. Interesting there are two sets of spirals for each cone, going in different directions.
The head of a flower is also subject to Fibonaccian processes. Typically, seeds are produced at the centre, and then grown towards the outside to fill all the space. Sunflowers provide a great example of these spiralling patterns.
Interesting the five petaled rose which you may pop into a five pointed star category forms a spiral, the five petals spiral outwards from the small petals in the centre and become larger the further they go out.
One of my favourite things to do in the spring is go the forest and watch ferns unfurling, the frond (leaf) has a coiled tip and reminds me of the head of a fiddle! When it wakes up it seems to stretch out its spiral! Speaking of leaves, a palm leaf will very often spiral so as to capture what little rain falls in tropical areas and direct that much needed moisture toward the stem!
The shell of a snail, with this particular photo because the line of the spiral is brown to the yellow of the shell (I’m not sure if this is photoshopped, I hope not I really do) you can really see the spiral from the centre to the outside of the protective shell. Another example of the golden ratio in nature! I don’t think I would have ever noticed a snail before now, but this is stunning and I will definitely be keeping my eye out for snails in the future!
The next picture may scare a few people but I think spiders known as the typical orb-weaver spiders are not only the most common group of builders of spiral wheel-shaped webs often found in gardens, fields and forests but they build one of natures most delicate and beautiful examples of the spiral, and something I’ve been trying desperately to get a photo of since starting this homework! LOL! Without really realising why I wanted one…
Staying with insects, did you know that insects tend to fly in spirals toward light?! Interesting! Speaking of flying, a bird of prey with circle it’s prey in spirals on the updrafts which travel from the earth into the atmosphere in spirals.
Remember earlier on I spoke of Ammon of Greece and Amun of Egypt? Well that got me thinking about the ram, they have very strong spiralled horns which they use to show off to the ladies and to rut with other males to become the dominant in a herd. The ram is also the symbol of Aries (my sun sign) which is interesting given the Aries constellation has among other things a spiral galaxy within it!
Finally, I think! I’d like to show you a photo I found quite by accident while searching for spirals to illustrate the points I wanted to make, it’s a spiral by accident that made me smile from ear to ear! If you can’t quite figure out what it is it’s the trunk of an elephant curled up into a spiral while he eats! FANTASTIC!