The golden ratio φ

Life is all a matter of proportions after all, don’t you think? By the way, are there “perfect” proportions you could use in various fields? Let’s dive into the mathematics to reflect a bit together on this allegedly unanswerable question.

So, mathematics might appear as a surprising choice to think about such a philosophical topic, at first sight. But as one of my my sources says: “maths is fun”. “The golden ratio (the symbol is the Greek letter “phi” φ) is a special number approximately equal to 1.618. It appears many times in geometry, art, architecture, and other areas. We find the golden ratio when we divide a line into two parts so that the long part divided by the short part is also equal to the whole length divided by the long part.”

“Does the golden ratio exist in nature?

Though people have known about phi for a long time, it gained much of its notoriety only in recent centuries. Italian Renaissance mathematician Luca Pacioli wrote a book called “De Divina Proportione” (“The Divine Proportion”) in 1509 that discussed and popularized phi, according to Knott. 

Pacioli used drawings made by Leonardo da Vinci that incorporated phi, and it is possible that da Vinci was the first to call it the “sectioaurea” (Latin for the “golden section”). […]

As evidenced by the other names for the number, such as the divine proportion and golden section, many wondrous properties have been attributed to phi. Novelist Dan Brown included a long passage in his bestselling book “The Da Vinci Code” (Doubleday, 2000), in which the main character discusses how phi represents the ideal of beauty and can be found throughout history. More sober scholars routinely debunk such assertions. 

For instance, phi enthusiasts often mention that certain measurements of the Great Pyramid of Giza, such as the length of its base and/or its height, are in the golden ratio. Others claim that the Greeks used phi in designing the Parthenon or in their beautiful statuary.”

So now I guess you are regretting not having decided to go for higher studies in applied mathematics. But this is all fine, it is still time to get acquainted with fascinating concepts such as this one. So, as they say down under: no worries!

Jules Striffler


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