While most 13-year-olds spend their free time playing video games or cruising Facebook, one 7th grader was trekking through the woods uncovering a mystery of science. After studying how trees branch in a very specific way, Aidan Dwyer created a solar cell tree that produces 20-50% more power than a uniform array of photovoltaic panels. His impressive results show that using a specific formula for distributing solar cells can drastically improve energy generation. The study earned Aidan a provisional U.S patent – it’s a rare find in the field of technology and a fantastic example of how biomimicry can drastically improve design.
Aidan Dwyer took a hike through the trees last winter and took notice of patterns in the mangle of branches. His studies into how they branch in very specific ways lead him to a central guiding formula, the Fibonacci sequence. Take a number, add it to the number before it in a sequence like 1+1=2 then 2+1=3 then 3+2=5, 8, 13, 21 and so on a very specific pattern emerges. Turns out the pattern and its corresponding ratios are reflected in nature all the time, and Aidan’s keen observation of how trees branch according to the formula lead him to test the theory. First he measured tree branches by how often they branch and at what degree from each other.
To see why they branch this way he built a small solar array using the Fibonacci formula, stepping cells at specific intervals and heights. He then compared the energy output with identical cells set in a row. Aidan reports the results: “The Fibonacci tree design performed better than the flat-panel model. The tree design made 20% more electricity and collected 2 1/2 more hours of sunlight during the day. But the most interesting results were in December, when the Sun was at its lowest point in the sky. The tree design made 50% more electricity, and the collection time of sunlight was up to 50% longer!”
His results did turn out to be incorrect though. Voltage (what he measured) is not an accurate measure of energy from a solar cell– he measured higher voltage simply because he swept a larger portion of sky. Solar cells in series are as only as good as the weakest one, so the tree design is only as good as the worst positioned cell for amperage, which multiplied by voltage creates usable energy.
This story is very inspiring and I think that Aiden’s passion to unravel a mystery shows how exciting the path of scientific discovery is. Impressively he is demonstrating the power of biomimicry — a concept that many see as the pinnacle of good design, but one that thus far has been exceptionally difficult to achieve. Way to go!
Believed to be the most geometrically complex and aesthetically beautiful structure in mathematics, the 421 polytope is the algebraic form at the centre of a universal theory of everything. Originally described in the late 19th century, 421 models all interactions and transformations between known and postulated sub-atomic particles. The theory is an attempt to reconcile one of the fundamental unsolved problems in physics: unify quantum physics and gravitation in hopes of ultimately explaining the fabric of the universe.
The visualization was hand drawn in Illustrator to an accuracy of 1/10,000 of a millimeter. The poster is a minimalistic composition focused on the accurate representation of the 421 polytope and can be ordered on Peter’s website. The sophisticated print consists of silk screen print matte black on glass clear plastic with hand-applied 23 carat rouge gold foil and gold powder gilding.
Knot theory is the study of mathematical knots which cannot be undone.
The original motivation for the founders of knot theory was to create a table of knots and links, which are knots of several components entangled with each other. Over six billion knots and links have been tabulated since the beginnings of knot theory in the 19th century.
Archaeologists have discovered that knot tying dates back to prehistoric times. Besides their uses such as recording information and tying objects together, knots have interested humans for their aesthetics and spiritual symbolism. Knots appear in various forms of Chinese artwork dating from several centuries BC (see Chinese knotting). The endless knot appears in Tibetan Buddhism, while the Borromean rings have made repeated appearances in different cultures, often representing strength in unity. The Celtic monks who created the Book of Kells lavished entire pages with intricate Celtic knotwork.
In the last several decades of the 20th century, scientists became interested in studying physical knots in order to understand knotting phenomena in DNA and other polymers. Knot theory can be used to determine if a molecule is chiral (has a “handedness”) or not (Simon 1986). Tangles, strings with both ends fixed in place, have been effectively used in studying the action of topoisomerase on DNA (Flapan 2000). Knot theory may be crucial in the construction of quantum computers, through the model of topological quantum computation (Collins 2006).
Learn more at Wikipedia
Nature by Numbers by Cristóbal Vila
12 × 42 = 24 × 21
12 × 63 = 36 × 21
12 × 84 = 48 × 21
13 × 62 = 26 × 31
23 × 96 = 69 × 32
24 × 63 = 36 × 42
24 × 84 = 48 × 42
26 × 93 = 39 × 62
36 × 84 = 48 × 63
46 × 96 = 69 × 64
14 × 82 = 28 × 41
23 × 64 = 46 × 32
34 × 86 = 68 × 43
13 × 93 = 39 × 31