The Truth about the Golden Ratio

Steven Strogatz, in a piece titled “Proportion Control” at The New York Times, dispels the myths behind the famous number known as the golden ratio (φequal to 1/2+√5/2):

Unfortunately, in the more than two millenniums since Euclid, the golden ratio has suffered from so much hype, numerology and wishful thinking that it’s become hard to separate the myth from the math. Many of its supposed occurrences in nature, anatomy, art and architecture don’t stand up to careful scrutiny. For example, you can find lots of books and Web sites claiming that the shell of the chambered nautilus obeys the golden ratio, but in reality, nautilus shells have average growth ratios between 1.24 and 1.43, quite far from 1.618.

So be skeptical the next time you see the golden ratio being used to sell blue jeans, stock tips or the perfect smile.

The upside is, if a nautilus can’t get its proportions golden, maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about mine.

Pass the nachos.

Love that conclusion.

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