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Math Trek

Sea Shell Spirals

By
1:26pm, April 1, 2005

The chambered nautilus is a sea creature that belongs in the same class as the octopus. Unlike the octopus, it has a hard shell that's divided into chambers. As the nautilus matures and grows, it periodically seals off the shell behind it and creates a new, larger living chamber. The shells of adults may have as many as 30 such chambers.

This growth process yields an elegant spiral structure, visible when the shell is sliced to reveal the individual chambers. Many accounts describe this pattern as a logarithmic (or equiangular) spiral and link it to a number

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