Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Beauty Secret: What separates homely from comely?," by Eric Haseltine. Discover, September 2002.

Haseltine notes that although perfect symmetry is probably a factor in why wefind some faces more appealing than others, "a secret known to ancient Greekarchitects may play a larger role." He offers a couple of experiments(drawings of faces and bodies in various proportions) and notes that "our genes(at least on average) do carry a program for growing various body parts in'golden' proportions." He briefly presents Fibonacci's mathematical series ofnumbers (in which each number is the sum of the two preceding it:0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21...) and notes that the ratio of any two adjacent numbers inthe series converges to the golden mean of 1.618. The author speculates thatthe mathematical scheme may be the key to understanding both how our bodiesgrow into their final proportions and how we perceive beauty.

--- Annette Emerson