Leave your calculator at home and discover the amazing mathematical patterns that surround us every day—from the skin on the back of your hand, to the trees in your yard, and perhaps the home you live in.

You’ll never look at the world the same way again! A Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature special exhibition, on view now in the Hsiao Family Special Exhibition Gallery, exposes and explains the mathematical patterns that abound in the natural world. From the nested spirals of a sunflower’s seeds, to the ridges of a majestic mountain range, to the layout of the Universe, each provides a unique perspective of our daily surroundings. Various interactive elements allow for hands-on learning to understand that math is all around us in everyday life, revealing the beauty of our world through numbers.

The centerpiece of A Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature is an elaborate mirror maze where guests can lose themselves in a seemingly infinite repeating pattern of mirrors. This arrangement of symmetry and tessellation provides an introduction to patterns and how math surrounds us every day. Dead ends are scattered throughout the maze, and hidden within the experience is a small secret room, rewarding guests with bonus puzzles and artifacts. Can you find the secrets within?

The exhibition features an immersive theater presenting an introduction to how math surrounds us every day, depicting stunning footage of nature, the human body, and even art and architecture. Hands-on activities within the exhibition allow for further exploration of mathematics—such as fractal branching, spirals, Voronoi patterns, the Golden Ratio (ψ), and more. From measuring their own wingspan to viewing their own eye’s blood vessels, creating computer-generated landscapes as seen in movies to playing a multi-string harp, guests will manipulate and create their own mathematical patterns. The exhibition also features an array of artifacts—Bighorn sheep antlers, honeycomb and an aluminum anthill casting—that demonstrate real examples of patterns in objects from the natural world.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • Step in front of a large two-way mirror and strike various poses while a projection superimposes patterns and proportions on your body in real time.
  • Observe just how much symmetry—or lack thereof—is present in the human face.
  • Draw patterns on a digital screen—like connecting dots to draw spirals and creating Fibonacci rectangles— and see real-world objects that show that same pattern.
  • Compose a piece of music using symmetry: vary a single musical motif and hear your creation.

A Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature is on view now inside the Hsiao Family Special Exhibition Gallery on the first floor of the museum. Admission to Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature is included with all museum admission tickets.

Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature was created by the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (MSI).

Did You Know?

Patterns in Nature

The seeds in the center of a sunflower naturally exist in a spiral arrangement. This allows the sunflower to pack the most seed heads in the least amount of space without smashing any one seed against its neighbors.


A Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature
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