The Fibonacci Sequence

In Liber Abaci, a problem is posed that gives rise to the sequence of numbers 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, and so on to infinity, known today as the Fibonacci sequence. The problem is this:

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How many pairs of rabbits placed in an enclosed area can be produced in a single year from one pair of rabbits if each pair gives birth to a new pair each month starting with the second month?

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In arriving at the solution, we find that each pair, including the first pair, needs a month’s time to mature, but once in production, begets a new pair each month. The number of pairs is the same at the beginning of each of the first two months, so the sequence is 1, 1. This first pair finally doubles its number during the second month, so that there are two pairs at the beginning of the third month. Of these, the older pair begets a third pair the following month so that at the beginning of the fourth month, the sequence expands 1, 1, 2, 3. Of these three, the two older pairs reproduce, but not the youngest pair, so the number of rabbit pairs expands to five. The next month, three pairs reproduce so the sequence expands to 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and so forth. Figure 3-1 shows the Rabbit Family Tree with the family growing with exponential acceleration. Continue the sequence for a few years and the numbers become astronomical. In 100 months, for instance, we would have to contend with 354,224,848,179,261,915,075 pairs of rabbits. The Fibonacci sequence resulting from the rabbit problem has many interesting properties and reflects an almost constant relationship among its components.

Figure 3-1

The sum of any two adjacent numbers in the sequence forms the next higher number in the sequence, viz., 1 plus 1 equals 2, 1 plus 2 equals 3, 2 plus 3 equals 5, 3 plus 5 equals 8, and so on to infinity.

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The Golden Ratio

After the first several numbers in the sequence, the ratio of any number to the next higher is approximately .618 to 1 and to the next lower number approximately 1.618 to 1. The further along the sequence, the closer the ratio approaches phi (denoted ϕ) which is an irrational number, .618034.... Between alternate numbers in the sequence, the ratio is approximately .382, whose inverse is 2.618. Refer to Figure 3-2 for a ratio table interlocking all Fibonacci numbers from 1 to 144.

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Phi is the only number that when added to 1 yields its inverse: 1 + .618 = 1 ÷ .618. This alliance of the additive and the multiplicative produces the following sequence of equations:

.6182 = 1 - .618,

.6183 = .618 - .6182,

.6184 = .6182 - .6183,

.6185 = .6183 - .6184, etc.

or alternatively,

1.6182 = 1 + 1.618,

1.6183 = 1.618 + 1.6182,

1.6184 = 1.6182 + 1.6183,

1.61855 = 1.6183 + 1.6184, etc.

Some statements of the interrelated properties of these four main ratios can be listed as follows:

1.618 - .618 = 1,

1.618 x .618 = 1,

1 - .618 = .382,

.618 x .618 = .382,

2.618 - 1.618 = 1,

2.618 x .382 = 1,

2.618 x .618 = 1.618,

1.618 x 1.618 = 2.618.

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Besides 1 and 2, any Fibonacci number multiplied by four, when added to a selected Fibonacci number, gives another Fibonacci number, so that:

Figure 3-2

3 x 4 = 12; + 1 = 13,

5 x 4 = 20; + 1 = 21,

8 x 4 = 32; + 2 = 34,

13 x 4 = 52; + 3 = 55,

21 x 4 = 84; + 5 = 89, and so on.

As the new sequence progresses, a third sequence begins in those numbers that are added to the 4x multiple. This relationship is possible because the ratio between second alternate Fibonacci numbers is 4.236, where .236 is both its inverse and its difference from the number 4. Other multiples produce different sequences, all based on Fibonacci multiples.

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We offer a partial list of additional phenomena relating to the Fibonacci sequence as follows:

1) No two consecutive Fibonacci numbers have any common factors.

2) If the terms of the Fibonacci sequence are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, etc., we find that, except for the fourth Fibonacci number (3), each time a prime Fibonacci number (one divisible only by itself and 1) is reached, the sequence number is prime as well. Similarly, except for the fourth Fibonacci number (3), all composite sequence numbers (those divisible by at least two numbers besides themselves and 1) denote composite Fibonacci numbers, as in the table below. The converses of these phenomena are not always true.

Fibonacci: Prime vs. Composite

P P P X P P P P

1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 89 144 233 377 610 987

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

X C C C C C C C C

3) The sum of any ten numbers in the sequence is divisible by 11.

4) The sum of all Fibonacci numbers in the sequence up to any point, plus 1, equals the Fibonacci number two steps ahead of the last one added.

5) The sum of the squares of any consecutive sequence of Fibonacci numbers beginning at the first 1 will always equal the last number of the sequence chosen times the next higher number.

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6) The square of a Fibonacci number minus the square of the second number below it in the sequence is always a Fibonacci number.

7) The square of any Fibonacci number is equal to the number before it in the sequence multiplied by the number after it in the sequence plus or minus 1. The plus 1 and minus 1 alternate along the sequence.

8) The square of one Fibonacci number Fn plus the square of the next Fibonacci number Fn+1 equals the Fibonacci number of F2n+1. The formula Fn2 + Fn+12 = F2n+1 is applicable to right-angle triangles, for which the sum of the squares of the two shorter sides equals the square of the longest side. At right is an example, using F5, F6 and F−−√F11.

9) One formula illustrating a relationship between the two most ubiquitous irrational numbers in mathematics, pi and phi, is as follows:

Fn ≈ 100 x π2 x ϕ(15-n), where ϕ = .618..., n represents the numerical position of the term in the sequence and Fn represents the term itself. In this case, the number "1" is represented only once, so that F1 ≈ 1, F2 ≈ 2, F3 ≈ 3, F4 ≈ 5, etc.

For example, let n = 7. Then,

F7 ≈ 100 x 3.14162 x .6180339(15-7)

≈ 986.97 x .61803398

≈ 986.97 x .02129 ≈ 21.01 ≈ 21

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10) One mind stretching phenomenon, which to our knowledge has not previously been mentioned, is that the ratios between Fibonacci numbers yield numbers which very nearly are thousandths of other Fibonacci numbers, the difference being a thousandth of a third Fibonacci number, all in sequence (see ratio table, Figure 3-2). Thus, in ascending direction, identical Fibonacci numbers are related by 1.00, or .987 plus .013; adjacent Fibonacci numbers are related by 1.618, or 1.597 plus .021; alternate Fibonacci numbers are related by 2.618, or 2.584 plus .034; and so on. In the descending direction, adjacent Fibonacci numbers are related by .618, or .610 plus .008; alternate Fibonacci numbers are related by .382, or .377 plus .005; second alternates are related by .236, or .233 plus .003; third alternates are related by .146, or .144 plus .002; fourth alternates are related by .090, or .089 plus .001; fifth alternates are related by .056, or .055 plus .001; sixth through twelfth alternates are related by ratios which are themselves thousandths of Fibonacci numbers beginning with .034. It is interesting that by this analysis, the ratio then between thirteenth alternate Fibonacci numbers begins the series back at .001, one thousandth of where it began! On all counts, we truly have a creation of "like from like," of "reproduction in an endless series," revealing the properties of "the most binding of all mathematical relations," as its admirers have characterized it.

Finally, we note that (5√5 + 1)/2 = 1.618 and (5√5 - 1)/2 = .618, where 5√5 = 2.236. 5 is the most important number in the Wave Principle, and its square root is a mathematical key to phi.

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1.618 (or .618) is known as the Golden Ratio or Golden Mean. Its proportions are pleasing to the eye and ear. It appears throughout biology, music, art and architecture. William Hoffer, writing for the December 1975 Smithsonian Magazine, said:

...the proportion of .618034 to 1 is the mathematical basis for the shape of playing cards and the Parthenon, sunflowers and snail shells, Greek vases and the spiral galaxies of outer space. The Greeks based much of their art and architecture upon this proportion. They called it "the golden mean."

Fibonacci’s abracadabric rabbits pop up in the most unexpected places. The numbers are unquestionably part of a mystical natural harmony that feels good, looks good and even sounds good. Music, for example, is based on the 8-note octave. On the piano this is represented by 8 white keys, 5 black ones — 13 in all. It is no accident that the musical harmony that seems to give the ear its greatest satisfaction is the major sixth. The note E vibrates at a ratio of .62500 to the note C.* A mere .006966 away from the exact golden mean, the proportions of the major sixth set off good vibrations in the cochlea of the inner ear — an organ that just happens to be shaped in a logarithmic spiral.

The continual occurrence of Fibonacci numbers and the golden spiral in nature explains precisely why the proportion of .618034 to 1 is so pleasing in art. Man can see the image of life in art that is based on the golden mean.

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Nature uses the Golden Ratio in its most intimate building blocks and in its most advanced patterns, in forms as minuscule as microtubules in the brain and the DNA molecule (see Figure 3-9) to those as large as planetary distances and periods. It is involved in such diverse phenomena as quasi crystal arrangements, reflections of light beams on glass, the brain and nervous system, musical arrangement, and the structures of plants and animals. Science is rapidly demonstrating that there is indeed a basic proportional principle of nature. By the way, you are holding this book with two of your five appendages, which have three jointed parts, five digits at the end, and three jointed sections to each digit, a 5-3-5-3 progression that mightily suggests the Wave Principle.

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