Mario Livio thoroughly untangles the twisting tale of the Golden Ratio in The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, the World’s Most Astonishing Number, offering an impressive survey of the seemingly innumerable representations of this number in natural phenomena, from microscopic molecules to the vast dimensions of the heavens. Livio’s explanations and descriptions of these examples are replete with engaging nuggets of historical, mathematical, and scientific references; these are augmented by hundreds of pictorial figures and literary sketches of the Golden Ratio’s presence within – or contribution to – diverse works of art, from floor tiling to the ancient designs of iconic classical architecture.
Beginning with “a brief exploratory tour through the very dawn of mathematics,” Livio deftly guides us through millennia of mathematical development, sharing potential points of interest along the way (e.g. numerology, Pythagoras, pentagrams). He pitches credible theories by others about the number’s prevalence and significance but also proffers disputations (his own as well as others’), puncturing some of the more preposterous assumptions, especially those regarding supposed mystical properties of the mathematical character. Some of the latter he presents tongue-in-cheek, sharing humorous as well as serious criticisms of some of the more absurd claims. For example, he provides extensive coverage of critical examinations of the “evidence” purported by some for centuries that ancient Egyptians used the Golden Ratio to build the majestic pyramids and that ancient Greeks used it to design the Parthenon.
Particularly informative portrayals of painters, musicians, and poets who may or may not have incorporated the Golden Ratio in their works of art are followed by Livio’s review of Leonardo of Pisa and his work, covering not only the his unusual biography but also the “rabbit problem” for which he is most famous, as well as a lengthy examination of the Fibonacci sequence and numerous related applications.
Internationally-recognized astrophysicist, speaker, and best-selling author Mario Livio has written many articles and over 400 scientific papers whose topics range from cosmology and dark energy to black holes, white dwarves, and extrasolar planets. His books enjoy both critical and commercial success.
For example, his best-seller, The Golden Ratio (2003), won the Peano Prize in 2003 and the International Pythagoras Prize in 2004. Is God a Mathematician (2009) was selected by the Washington Post as one of the best books of the year and inspired the Emmy-nominated NOVA program, “The Great Math Mystery” (2016). His latest two books are Brilliant Blunders (2013) and WHY? What Makes Us Curious (2017).
Married to University of Maryland microbiologist Sofie Livio, he has three children. After ten years as a physics professor at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Livio worked at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Maryland (which operates the Hubble Space Telescope) for fourteen years. He shared his discoveries and observations in The Accelerating Universe (2000), making complicated physics concepts comprehensible to non-physicists. Retired from active duty at the STScI (2015), Dr. Livio is currently a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. www.mariolivio.com
Livio, Mario. The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, the World’s Most Astonishing Number. Broadway Books, 2003
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Paperback: 128 pages
Author: Shelley Allen, M.A.Ed.
Publisher: Fibonacci Inc.; 1st edition (2019)