GO IN DEPTH

Mystery Image Contest: August 5-19, 2013


Answer

This alien-looking vegetable is a Romanesco broccoli. “Romanesco broccoli?” you may ask. “What’s that?” It turns out that there is a bit of disagreement among plant taxonomists as to what exactly this brassica should be called. Is it a cauliflower or is it a broccoli? In fact, it’s technically neither but truly in a class all its own. Many consider it a fine work of art and a mathematical wonder because it’s an example of a Fibonacci fractal in the natural world. It is of a light green color, with the branched buds making a logarithmic spiral. In this sense, the broccoli's shape approximates a natural fractal; each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another logarithmic spiral. The Fibonacci Sequence is a series of numbers where the first two numbers are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21…). The sequence can be seen in other things in nature, like sunflowers, sea shell spirals, and pine cones. Have you seen examples of the Fibonacci Sequence in nature? If you want to learn more about the Fibonacci Sequence or try some activities, you can go to Solve the Puzzle of the Seashell Spiral (http://www.learner.org/exhibits/renaissance/fibonacci/) or Fibonacci Numbers and Nature (http://www.mcs.surrey.ac.uk/Personal/R.Knott/Fibonacci/fibnat.html).


Description

This alien-looking vegetable is the Romanesco Broccoli.


Photo Credit

Aurelien Guichard via Wikimedia Commons


Winning Entry

Danielle Penrod
Sixth Grade Science Teacher, Waverly Junior High
Waverly, Ohio


For Educators

Teaching Support

“Romanesco broccoli?” you may ask. “What’s that?” It turns out that there is a bit of disagreement among plant taxonomists as to what exactly this brassica should be called. Is it a cauliflower or is it a broccoli? In fact, it’s technically neither but truly in a class all its own. Many consider it a fine work of art and a mathematical wonder because it’s an example of a Fibonacci fractal in the natural world.

It is of a light green color, with the branched buds making a logarithmic spiral. In this sense, the broccoli's shape approximates a natural fractal; each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another logarithmic spiral.

You could perhaps use this image to help generate interest in the Fibonacci Sequence, a series of numbers where the first two numbers are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21…). Point out that the sequence can be seen in other things in nature, like sunflowers, sea shell spirals, and pine cones.

Related Resources

A Matter of Pattern
K-2 | LESSON
What's in a Shape?
3-5 | LESSON
The Fibonacci Sequence
6-8 | LESSON
Mathematical Proofs
9-12 | LESSON
Art Algorithms
6-12 | SCIENCEUPDATE

Science NetLinks Mystery Image Contest Rules and Regulations

What Is the

Mystery Image Contest?

The Mystery Image Contest offers the chance to identify a science-related object based on a close-up picture of it.

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