Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Go figure," by Marcus Chown. New Scientist, 21/28 December 2002, pages 55-56.

This article discusses the "golden ratio," which was first explicitly described by Euclid. The golden ratio is a number that arises in measurements across the natural sciences---in seashell spirals, in the placement of leaves on the stems of plants, and even in calculations about the energy of black holes. The golden ratio also arises in art and architecture, but, as the article suggests, its role in these areas has been exaggerated. For example, the article mentions mathematician George Markowsky, who said that his own investigations of the legendary use of the golden ratio in the proportioning of the Parthenon turned up nothing. The article quotes Markowsky as saying, "Much of what is said about the golden ratio in art, architecture and literature is seriously misleading."

--- Allyn Jackson