Great Lakes Geek Book Review

The Golden Ratio
The Story of Phi, The World's Most Astonishing Number

by Mario Livio

Broadway Press 2003

The inscription above the door of Plato's Academy said,
"Let no one destitute of geometry enter my doors"

That's good advice for reading this book too.

Dr. Mario Livio is the Head of the Science Division at the Hubble Space Telescope Institute. You may remember from your student days that Euclid defined the extreme and mean ratio as follows:

A straight line is said to be cut in mean and extreme ratio when, as the whole line is to the greater segment so is the greater to the lesser. This turns out to be a Golden Ratio.

This ratio, based on the irrational number Phi ( 1.6180339887…) has been called the "most aesthetically pleasing proportion" and has been featured in great works of art and architecture ranging from the Parthenon and Pyramids to DaVinci's Mona Lisa and Dali's The Sacrament of the Last Supper.

Mathematically, it's a fascinating number and has a rich history. The followers of Pythagoras thought this proportion revealed the hand of God.

It also played a crucial role in the construction of the pentagram. Some even attributed magical properties to the ratio.

Livio covers all these historical areas but much of the book concentrates on how Phi shows up in astonishing places in nature such as mollusk shells, sunflower florets, crystals of some materials, shapes of galaxies and so on.

If you have any mathematical inclinations, this is a great read.

Great Lakes Geek Rating: 3.5 out of 5 pocket protectors.

Reviewed by Entreprenerd Dan Hanson, the Great Lakes Geek

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