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28 | JANUARY 20 – 26, 2010 Off the Beat
The Divine Proportion: 10 things
An indecipherable code hidden around us hate most
Leonardo Vintiñi Reuters
The Epoch Times
Taking the train in Japan and
The newspaper, the screen of your want to avoid annoying fellow
computer, your credit card, the petals passengers? Keep conversation
of that flower, the leaves of that tree, to a whisper, turn down your
the building across the street – eve- iPod and put your mobile on
rything is governed by a principle, a vibration mode, a recent survey
proportion, a harmonic value. The by the railway association
universe seems to whisper a code to showed.
us in each corner of nature, a unique Here are the top 10 examples
and harmonically aesthetic code of bad rail manners according to
– the Number of Gold, the Divine the association’s online survey,
Proportion. with responses from about 4200
Behind the apparent chaos that people:
reigns in the universe, in which each
event and measurement logically 1. Noisy conversation, horsing
follows an uncertain destiny, there around
nevertheless exists a hidden order. 2. Music from headphones
From the time of Pythagoras, the key 3. The way passengers sit
to this order – which has intrigued so 4. Mobile ringtones and talking
many mathematicians and scholars on phones
of various branches of knowledge – 5. Pushing , shov ing w hen
has never been fully understood. getting on and off trains
A contemporary experiment 6. Applying make-up
involving several individuals of 7. Littering
different ethnic backgrounds dem- 8. Sitting on the floor of the train
onstrated that among a sample of 9. Riding the train drunk
several rectangular figures, nearly 10. Riding a crowded train
every person agreed on which one tornado, fingerprints, the petals of a with a child in a stroller
was most harmonic. This harmonic rose, the concentric patrons of a cau-
figure is formed when the ratio of liflower or sunflower, birds, insects,
the greater side over the smaller fish, the Milky Way, other galaxies
side equals 1.618 – the number
known mathematically as “gold” or
“golden”. This rectangular proportion
like our M51 neighbour...or a snail.
A perfect and beautiful snail
like the Nautilus geometrician is
Too many
is found in thousands of architectural
examples around the world, as well
as in match boxes, business cards,
practically a paragon of the golden
proportion. Many trees also reveal
the golden relation in the thickness
books and hundreds of other daily
objects, merely because humans find
of their branches, between the
lower to the higher. The aesthetic may make
it pleasing. The Great Pyramid of of the human body also hides phi
Giza and the pyramid of Cheops, the (the golden number). The quotient
seat of the United Nations in New of head-to-feet length over navel-

sites vanish
York and the cathedrals of Notre to-feet length reveals a perfect and
Dame all embody this golden pro- harmonic 1.618 in our bodies. We
portion. In fact, the Greek Pantheon can find an equal result in the ratio
seems to be an ode to this propor- of the length of the whole head, over
tion. For centuries, the absolute the length from the eyes to the chin; Sarah Norgrove
expression of artistic beauty and or the ratio of nose-to-chin length Reuters
human wisdom (with the exception over lips-to-chin length. The more
of some contemporary trends) has the face approaches these propor- Travellers yearning to explore
never strayed far from this golden tions, the more harmonic it will prehistoric Stonehenge or
mean. appear. Machu Picchu’s Inca ruins better
Several artists of the Renaissance Despite suggestion to the start packing, as both are on a
incorporated the golden mean in contrary, it would appear that our list of endangered destinations,
their works, not least of whom was tastes are somehow predetermined. according to a British travel
Leonardo da Vinci, who used this The number phi, like its cousin pi magazine.
proportion in well-known pieces (the ratio between the circumfer- Wanderlust magazine’s second
such as The Last Supper and The ence and diameter of a circle), is of annual “Threatened Wonders
Vitruvian Man. Music is not free of extraordinary complexity. In modern List” has identified eight top
this enigmatic code, either. Mexican times, it has been calculated to more travel picks that have been over-
composer Silvestre Revueltas used than a trillion decimal places, yet exploited.
this proportion to organise parts of it continues to go on still further. Most, including the haunting
the composition known as Alcancías. The hidden cause existing behind Jordan desert valley of Wadi
Composers Béla Bartók and Olivier this code, which seems to govern Rum, made famous in the
Messiaen observed the Fibonacci harmony and beauty, is something cinema classic Lawrence of
sequence (which contains the golden that has enchanted scientists for Arabia, are plagued by tourists,
proportion) in some of their works centuries. It continues to be an poor planning and shoddy
to determine the length of time notes enigma even today. security, the magazine said.
should be sustained. How is it that a fixed spiral can Travellers should avoid
As architecture, visual art, music be the common factor in thousands Stonehenge – perhaps the
and other inventions are uniquely of biological organisms, supposedly world’s most famous prehistoric
human endeavours, some might having evolved in an entirely unpre- site and a centre for British pagan
conclude that the golden propor- dictable and indeterminate way? celebration – unless they wish to
tion suggests an arbitrary, collective Could it be related in some way to see a car park and glimpse the
opinion among the human race. DNA, where within a full cycle stone monoliths from a disap-
Yet this still does not explain the of the double helix spiral, the two pointingly remote viewing area,
endless number of organic and sections contain a relation among the magazine said.
inorganic entities found in nature themselves of nothing less than phi? Avid trekkers should also
that endlessly repeat this special pro- Since this appears to be a common rethink a trip to Peru’s Machu
portion. From the rectangle to the code throughout all life forms – the Picchu, which is plagued by
golden spiral (that which arises from harmonic note at which the universe trash and encroaching minibus
the union of points of many nested is vibrating – it is no accident routes. Up to 2500 tourists a day
golden rectangles), examples can be that this divine proportion seems The harmonic ratio known as ‘the golden mean’ or ‘the divine trample the mountainside ruins,
found everywhere – in the horn of harmonic to us, since we ourselves proportion’ is found in nature and thousands of man–made making it impossible to protect
a sheep, mineral crystals, an eddy, a originate from the universe. creations. against wear and tear.

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