I ran across a little tidbit about the Fibonacci Sequence: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21,34, 55, 89,…. It’s a mere coincidence, but still pretty cool:

As the list of numbers goes on, the ratio of successive terms gets closer and closer to the Golden Ratio ø≈1.618. And another number that’s close to 1.618 is the number of kilometers in a mile (1.609). This means that F_{n} miles is approximately F_{n+1} kilometers, where F_{n} and F_{n+1} are successive Fibonacci numbers.

In other words, if you’re driving at 13 miles per hour, that’s approximately 21 kilometers per hour (actual: 20.9). If you’re driving at 21 miles per hour, that’s approximately 34 kilometers per hour (actual: 33.8).

*This way cool observation was found at Futility Closet, found via the Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories August Linkdump.*

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Tags: Fibonacci sequence, Golden ratio

This entry was posted on September 21, 2008 at 6:43 pm and is filed under Miscellaneous, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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September 21, 2008 at 7:43 pm |

Well, this goes even further: if you know some 10 first Fibonacci numbers (and if you are a true geek, you should know at least 10;)), you can quickly convert miles into kilometers and vice versa. Assume that you want to know how many kilometers there are in 50 miles. Then, you first represent 50 as a sum of Fibonacci numbers (proving that it’s possible for each positive integer is an easy exercise): 50=34+13+3. Then, you just _shift_ each of them one place to the right in the sequence (for km->mi, one to the left, of course):

34->55, 13->21, 3->5. After summing up the shifted ones you’ve got kilometers: 50mi is approximately 55+21+5=81km (in this case, this gives you less than 1% error, since the true value is approx. 80.4672km). (I learned this trick from “Concrete Mathematics” by Graham, Knuth and Patashnik – yes _that_ Knuth;) – a really geeky book, very hard to read (for me), but also very interesting).

September 22, 2008 at 8:42 am |

Yowza. This is possibly the coolest stuff ever.

Well, okay, so multiplying 50 by 1.6 in your head is pretty simple too (double it 4 times and shift a decimal), which gives you 80km, which is slightly more accurate.

But still, to have this sort of application of representations of numbers as sums of Fibonacci numbers, that’s the sort of thing that makes me say “I love mathematics”.

September 22, 2008 at 7:25 pm |

One factor I overlooked: Both of these methods are readily reversible.

Example: 50 kilometers: Using the Fibonacci method: 50 = 34 + 13 + 3. Replace each of those Fibonacci numbers with the previous Fibonacci number, and voila: an approximate conversion from km to miles! So 50 km becomes 21 + 8 + 2 = 31 miles.

Note though that one could also just divide by 1.6, by dividing by 2 four times, and shuffling a decimal: 50 -> 25 -> 12.5 -> 6.25 -> 3.125 -> 31.25 miles.

Seems like a toss-up.

September 22, 2008 at 11:44 pm |

genuinely cool – I’ll teach this — thanks

September 26, 2008 at 6:54 am |

This post has been included in the 40th Carnival of Mathematics. Come check out the others.

December 1, 2008 at 4:45 pm |

[…] It’s right, too. (OK, not hard math, but for all we know Brennan used Fibonacci numbers to figure it out, since 200=144+55+1 [i.e. F12 + F10 + F2] so the miles would be approximately 89+34+1=124 [i.e. F11 […]

May 21, 2009 at 8:22 am |

[…] calories? The Fibonacci Sequence 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, … is more than just a fancy way to convert between miles and kilometers: you can arrange your entire plan around these special numbers. Break your eating into 3 meals […]