One look at my wife’s website, NaturebyCarol, and you can see she’s enamored with daylilies. As an engineer, I simply don’t understand the fascination. You put all this time and effort into a flower that only lasts a day. When I work on a project, I want it to last years not a mere 8 hours. When I asked her to explain what was so appealing about the daylilies, she told me how beautiful the flowers were and how their beauty was enhanced by their short life. I agree the flowers are beautiful but I point out she’s taking pictures of them and those pictures will last a lifetime. That’s when she gets perturbed and says I don’t understand beauty. Sigh, Brussel sprouts for dinner, again.

Over the years I’ve come to accept that the rest of you perceive the world differently than I do. To me, fashion is a meaningless set of rules driven by whim. I’ve learned just enough of the rule set to not embarrass my wife in public. Growing up, I always considered beauty was another of those abstract concepts just out of my understanding. To be honest, when you talk about a beautiful woman, I have difficulty separating peer pressure from a concept of beauty.

On reflection, I feel sorry for the rest you. While you have to look for beauty in flowers, sunsets and landscapes, the engineer in me appreciates those but also sees beauty in a well designed bridge, innovative circuit designs and even in highway systems actually designed to enhance traffic flow. Even so, all of these pale when I consider the beauty of mathematical equations. Let me give you a few examples.

That’s right, the Pythagoras’ theorem. In a right triangle, the square of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. This is often illustrated as 52= 42+32. Think about that for a second. This is always true. If you want to ensure corners are exactly ninety degrees on a building you only need a piece of string. This is the method I used to set the greenhouse square and supposedly used in building the pyramids. Such power in such a simple equation. That’s timeless beauty. 


Not a fan of construction projects? How about Ohm’s law? It’s another simple equation, I (current)= V (volts)/R (resistance). Don’t tell me you can’t see the beauty in this equation. If I apply 120 volts to a 2 ohm load, the current draw is 60 amps. As a teenager, about the third time I demonstrated this to myself by blowing out our 30 amp fuses (it was an old house), I received a stern lecture from my father. I don’t remember what he said but I will always remember Ohm’s law.

This simple law is responsible for the size of the wires in your house, the reason it’s a bad idea to run your electric lawn mower using a 100 foot extension cord made up of 16 gauge wire and the size of your phone. In today’s electric world, almost everything you touch is affected by this law. How beautiful is that?


Any discussion of beauty in nature should include fractals. Fractals are a mathematical concept responsible for creating those beautiful patterns you see in my wife’s flowers. Fortunately for you, fractals are a little too complex for me to explain in a few sentences except to say that fractals are amazing.

With all that beauty around us, there’s one more equation that I should bring to your attention, E=MC2. I know you’ve heard this all your life as something to do with Einstein and energy conversion. Would it make a difference if I told you that simple equation was one of the reasons you’re alive? In fact, it’s responsible for every living thing on earth. That simple equation describes the way the sun produces the heat and light so necessary for life everywhere on earth. Without it, we would have no life on earth. Sort of makes it the ultimate source of beauty doesn’t it?

Flowers can be beautiful but I’ll take my equations any day. Yes dear, thanks for the second helping of those fractal laden, E=MC2 enriched, Brussel sprouts.

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