Thursday, April 19, 2007

Phi Guy

original painting by Lynne Taylor
Dr. Mario Livio takes his history seriously, which means he doesn't just cut and paste what others have written, not even if they're "authorities" on a given subject. He does his own homework.

This approach is especially refreshing when numbers like Phi are involved (coined as such by Mark Barr in the 20th century), as it breaths life into "just the facts mam" skepticism.

So if the ancient Egyptians didn't actually write about the golden ratio, as best as we're able to decode, let's not just assume the Great Pyramid's face height to half-base length ratio of 1.62ish is really Phi in disguise. Likewise with the face of the Mona Lisa, even though Leonardo was of course well versed in the Phi literature.

Look for author intent, don't just work backwards from the outward artifact. Even a lowly overhead projector will have close-to-phi in it somewhere, regardless of its designer's mindset. And remember, HDTVs are 16:9 and neither is a Fibonacci number.

So by this reasoning, you might think nature isn't using Phi or any abstract mathematical irrationals. She doesn't intend does she? Well, yes and no. Our models of the problems nature needs to solve do lead to Phi in the context of a continuum, or to Fibonacci numbers in the more discrete cases.

Do these models exist in Nature (per some brands of natural philosophy) or just "in our own heads"?

That's a false dichotomy at least per Bucky's American Transcendentalist spin on U = MP. Where is "in your head" if not in Universe? Dreams do matter, including with regard to our Pentagon Math.

Apparently Livio takes the same myth busters approach to his biography of Galois. I look forward to reading it.

Another highlight: a first George and Eve Menger-Hammond award for a high school science teacher at Benson Polytechnic.

During the Heathman Dinner I sat opposite Becky Ohlsen and friends. She writes movie reviews for Willamette Week sometimes. I was so glad Judy could join me for this ISEPP lecture. I do enjoy sharing Portland's high culture with my high desert relatives.

:: phi guy (610 x 377 pixels) ::