Monday, November 23, 2009

A Really Tough Nut To Crack

It was a sixty-degree morning in an abnormally warm autumn. As I walked towards her house I noticed that my up-the-street neighbor was intently pushing something around with her red plastic snow shovel. I spoke softly in advance of my arrival so as not to startle her.

"Hi B***. Practicing for the winter?"

By then I could see that the targets of her seemingly non-seasonal labor were actually acorns -- initially on her driveway and now, as I stood next to her in conversation, along the front apron of her yard."They took all of the leaves", she said, referring to our municipality's removal earlier that week of the neighborhood's piles of dead tree foliage. "But they left all of these."

B*** pointed my attention to her blue recycling bin, the bottom of which was covered with at least two layers of the fruits of her oak trees.

"The worst it's been in forty years.

"And yet there's only one squirrel. He sits on my deck in the morning just looking up at me. I usually have whole bunch of them."

"We do too." I replied. I was talking about squirrels. In the past month our population has also dwindled from its normal level of eight down to a single tree rodent -- with occasional second and third ones. But, unlike B***, the acorn output in our yard has been decidedly sub-par this annum.

Mars and I have however experienced the overabundance of these oval nuts at our local golf course. A couple of tee boxes are located under some pretty substantial oak trees. And the ground there is littered with their fruit. Cascades of them have rained down upon me as I stood poised to hit my shot.

Except for our yard, it seems that acorns are pretty much overrunning everything.

But in many parts of the region this time of year, particularly this year, the sky is falling -- or at least it feels that way. Hard-shelled orbs are cracking windshields, thwacking gardeners, and tripping up joggers on their daily slog. (

Meanwhile at home, Mars and I are buried in pinecones.

In fact, until I picked them up, the area around our lone evergreen was so overrun that you literally could not put your foot down without touching one of more pieces of the dry coniferous fruit -- not just my size thirteens but even Mars' more miniscule ones.

We filled one of those barge-shaped, cardboard, "pick-your-own berries" trays with some, and gave the collection to A***, our next-door neighbor. She had been unable to find any for her holiday decoration plans and had just returned from looking for them at Walmart. Mars then filled a bushel basket with more cones as the basis for our own winter yard ornament. And there are still scores on the ground.

Acorn feasts and acorn famines within a quarter mile of each other. Pinecone population explosions, and a depleting squirrel census -- sounds like apocalyptic auguries to me.

Not to go too "Charlie Eppes" (who explains them in the "Sabotage" episode of the TV crime drama "NUMB3RS") -- but I think the ultimate answer lies in Fibonacci Numbers. And their connection to the Mayan Calendar, which ends on December 31, 2012 when the world as we know it will purportedly be totally destroyed.

"Fibonacci numbers and the Fibonacci sequence are prime examples of how mathematics is connected to seemingly unrelated things."

Fibonacci was a 13th century mathematician who developed his eponymous sequence of numbers in order to solve a problem about the birth rate of rabbits. The sequence begins: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144...

"Each term in the Fibonacci sequence is called a Fibonacci number... each Fibonacci number is obtained by adding the two previous Fibonacci numbers together. For example, the next Fibonacci number can be obtained by adding 144 and 89. Thus, the next Fibonacci number is 233.

"One of the most fascinating things about the Fibonacci numbers is their connection to nature. Some items in nature that are connected to the Fibonacci numbers are: the growth of buds on trees, the pinecone's rows, the sandollar, the starfish, the petals on various flowers such as the cosmo, iris, buttercup, daisy, and the sunflower, the appendages and chambers on many fruits and vegetables such as the lemon, apple, chile, and the artichoke." (Fibonacci numbers)

And perhaps acorns?

But wait -- there is more.

"Solar systems are designed by nature in Fibonacci spirals...

"Spectacular patterns are found by applying the Fibonacci spiral to key numbers of the Mayan calendar: 20, 13 and 18. The sacred calendar (Tzolkin) uses 20 and 13 The civil calendar (Haab) uses 20 and 18. The common denominator of both is 20. If you apply the Fibonacci sequence to the number 20 and carry the sequence out to 26 places, then multiply each number of the sequence by 13, then divided it by 18 you will discover that the results of these factors shifts and starts new internal sequencing at the 13th place in each sequence. The 12th place [completes] a sequence and the 13th starts a new sequence internally." (

Could it be any clearer?

Everyplace in the universe is awash in acorns except for our estate. And no one is reporting a surfeit of pinecones save for us. Plus we are faithful viewers of "NUMB3RS", and I think we may have learned something about the Mayans in an Anthropology class back in the sixties.

Clearly Mars and I are special people in a special place.

Our street number is 284.
The Fibonacci numbers surrounding that arithmetic value are 233 and 377.
284 minus 233 = 51.
377 minus 284 = 93.
51 plus 93 = 144
144 is the Fibonacci number immediately preceding 233!!!
2 times 144 = 288
288 minus 284 = 4!!!
The aforementioned Mayan calendar comes to an end in 3 years.
4 is greater than 3!!!

Ergo: a Fibonacci loophole -- our property will survive the apocalypse.

Good thing that the acorn conundrum didn't happen last year.

So my plan for the final day of 2012 is to stay at home admiring our pinecone collection, eating apples and artichokes, and watching DVD episodes 1, 2, 5, 8 and 13 of "NUMB3RS". We'll probably invite B*** and A*** over to thank them for their role in helping me crack this nut.

(click to enlarge)

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