Math is a really cool thing! And lucky for us, Pythagoras thought so as well. He observed that “numbers seemed to be primary in all nature, [and] supposed the elements of numbers to be the elements of all things that are”. Reminds me of Math Curse.
But I digress. When I initially read Pythagoras in A Presocratics Reader, I was highly anticipating a mention of the Pythagorean Theory. To my dismay, he was too concerned with “souls” and “puppies”. However, the last page of our reading was saturated with quotes about numbers.
I want to substantiate Pythagoras’ theories and show how he utilizes a level of higher-thinking on par with Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes. Numbers really are the building blocks of nature.
Most flowers or plants have leaves and seeds in a pattern that follows the Fibonacci Sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89…).
Other “magic numbers” seem to appear all over nature. The Virtruvian Man shows how the human body follows a set of ratios.
But the most important number is the “golden ratio”. According to guardian.com,
Claude Debussy used it explicitly in his music and Le Corbusier in his architecture. There are claims the number was used by Leonardo da Vinci in the painting of the Mona Lisa, by the Greeks in building the Parthenon and by ancient Egyptians in the construction of the Great Pyramid of Khufu.
It was this elusive nature that led the 15th-century Italian friar and mathematician Luca Pacioli to equate the golden ratio with the incomprehensibility of God.
And for the science nerds…
It turns out that at a critical value of the spin, a black hole flips from negative to positive specific heat – that is, from growing hotter as it loses heat to growing colder. What determines the critical value? The mass of the black hole and the golden ratio!
Is it any surprise that Pythagoras thought numbers were the foundation of nature? What I find most impressive is that Pythagoras recognized the significance of some numbers and was able to create a whole worldview centered on them. Like Thales who observed the properties of water and made a “critical leap” to conclude the universe was made solely of water, Pythagoras revolutionized the way mankind thought of the world.