Monday, May 21, 2012

Nine Basic Shapes Of Life - Common Denominators

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In science, we are always looking for rules and "common denominators" which allow us to understand how things happen (a reverse engineering process), allow us to build or duplicate things, and allow us to predict things -- sometimes to intervene in events and to actually shape the future instead of passively trying to predict it. Fans of The Braintenance Blog are the most curious of all.

 All forms of life are constructed of nine basic designs. The nine designs are listed below and are often combined as composite forms that can include all nine or any combination of several.  From a probability and possibility standpoint, this is fascinating and vast. The number of possible combinations is unfathomably enormous, yet finite.  Here is a listing of these fundamental shapes:
  1. the sphere and spheroid
  2. the circle and ellipse
  3. the cube
  4. the cylinder
  5. the spiral
  6. the undulate
  7. the pyramid and triangle
  8. the lattice
  9. the frond
Identifying the world's shapes can be a fascinating exercise. For example, conifer trees, such as the spruce and the balsam fir, illustrate how objects in nature can combine all of the forms.
  • The tree itself is a pyramid (7).
  • Its root system and boughs are arranged in dendritic patterns and fronds (9).
  • Roots and boughs spread outward from a cylinder of the trunk (4).
  • Around the trunk the branches rise in a spiral (5). (Spirals are common in nature as seen in the vine of a morning glory flower, in the scales of flowers and cones, and in the way leaves and needles wind around twigs and branches.)
  • A close examination of a pine tree's needles reveals an undulate (6). In general, leaves have the undulated (i.e., toothed, notched, or wave-edged) pattern.
  • The tree's resin ducts, like the minerals Halite (salt) and Galena (lead ore), are cubes (3).
  • Its needles, like twigs and human fingers, are cylinders (4).
  • Leaf and wood fibers are lattices (8).
  • The cells in the wood and needles (like those in blood) are spheres or spheroids (1).
  • Finally, if the sun shines just right, the shadow of a tree forms a rough circle or ellipse (2).
When you look at any living thing as a whole, it is made of many geometric shapes or patterns – the composite. We don't need to know scientific names, economic value, or botanical details to appreciate a tree. We can appreciate the tree simply because it is beautiful in many ways. As John Keats wrote:

"Beauty is truth; Truth beauty.
That's all on earth ye know.
And all ye need to know."

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