No one will ever accuse me of understanding much more than arithmetic when it comes to numbers. However fine a creator of spreadsheets I am, you don’t need higher math to make them. No, a three-dimensional thinker I am not, and neither am I apt to just accept a theorem without asking why? That certainly explains my squeaking by in high school math class.

But when I admire a calla lily flower and the way it curves into itself is awesome. It’s like standing at the edge of Niagara Falls. As you look at the torrent rushing over the horseshoe into the abyss, it seems like the water closer to the banks is being drawn to the center. Like gravity is pulling it faster the farther away you get from the center. It is rather mesmerizing to say the least.

I listened to a science writer named Margaret Werthiem describe what used to be a complicated problem in mathematics called “Parabolic Geometry”. And how she used the calla lily flower to describe the fact that only in parabolic geometry could you create a triangle whose angles added up to less than 180 degrees. (That the sum of the interior angles of a triangle always equal 180, was one equation that I accepted but only after careful calculation) In fact you could draw a triangle on calla lily with 3 straight lines and the total of all the angles might even be ZERO!.

I have learned that it took mathematicians hundreds of years to solve the riddle of hyperbolic geometry. And even that those same equations are at the root of modern physics.

Now when you see a calla flower spike, you could not imagine the shape of the flower to come. In fact after you see the flower itself you cannot imagine how it arrived at the shape it is. Perhaps Albert Einstein chanced to look at a calla lily and…

John