Thursday, February 25, 2010

Debunking the golden mean

Mohamed El Naschie is one among many who attribute unwarranted importance to the golden mean. He and his followers blather about ancient Egyptians using it for the pyramids, about the most beautiful rectangle, about music, and so on. You know the drill.

I strongly recommend this Mathematical Association of America article by Keith Devlin: The Myth That Will Not Go Away. He admits to having once believed some of the New Age golden mean theology one often hears, and so do I. Unfortunately it seems to be a compulsory part of any math education.

Here are some of the main points:

  • The ancient Greeks attached no mystical significance to phi, and didn't base the Parthenon on phi.

  • Leonardo da Vinci didn't attribute special importance to phi with respect to human body proportions as alleged regarding Vetruvian Man, etc.

  • The golden rectangle isn't particularly beautiful.

  • The spiral shell of the nautilus doesn't have phi in it.

  • Egyptian pyramids and tombs weren't based on phi; in fact the Egyptians didn't know anything about it. (Also see this.)

  • Phi isn't relevant to Mozart, Gregorian chants, or Bartok.

  • Phi is not widely used in modern architecture.

  • The use of "golden" in this context dates only to 1835.

He writes
I anticipate receiving some truly ANGRY emails from readers incensed that I should dare question their long cherished beliefs about this particular number.

Related posts:

Translate English to Arabic

محمد النشائى El Naschie Watch محمد النشائي El Naschie News محمد النشائى
محمد النشائي All El Naschie All The Time محمد النشائى

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