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You are on page 1of 3

!

***B

* ! *

* ! *

* ! *

* ! *

--*--------O-----*--x

C ! A

This is a view of part of one turn of the spiral. If you were to

construct a line segment from A to B, the triangle OAB would form

half a golden rectangle. The same thing would be true if you connected

B and C for triangle OBC.

The Golden Spiral is a logarithmic spiral; that is, its radius grows

exponentially. Because of this, it's easiest to put it in polar

coordinates. (If you haven't learned about polar coordinates yet,

don't worry - they're pretty simple to learn. You might want to talk

to your teacher, though, because this explanation is going to rely

heavily on them.)

As with every logarithmic spiral, the Golden Spiral's equation can be

written in the form of the polar equation

r = a*e^(k*@)

where r is the distance from the origin (the radius), @ represents

the Greek symbol theta, which is the angle the graph is open up to,

and a and k are constants. To get the equation for the Golden Spiral

(and not just any logarithmic spiral), we'll need to find out what

a and k are.

To derive the spiral formula, we also need to remember that the ratio

of the sides of a golden rectangle is equal to (1 + sqrt(5))/2, often

represented by the Greek symbol phi.

If the spiral above is a Golden spiral, then we know the following:

The lengths of the parts of the axes cut off by the spiral fit the

Golden ratio. That is,

(length of OB)/(length of OA) = phi = (1 + sqrt(5))/2

Also, since we're dealing with polar coordinates, we'll use our

equation r = a*e^(k*@) and call r the length of OA to get the

following:

length of OA = a*e^(k*n*2*pi), where n is an integer.

(We put n*2*pi in for @/theta,

= a*e^(k*2n*pi) because we want to start on

the positive x-axis.)

Now call r the length of OB:

length of OB = a*e^[k*(n*2*pi + pi/2)] Here we add pi/2 to the

angle we used for point A

= a*e^[k*(2n+1/2)*pi] to indicate that B is on the

positive y-axis.

Then

k * (2n+1/2] * pi

a * e

(length of OB)/(length of OA) = ---------------------------

k * 2n * pi

a * e

The a's will divide out, and to divide the e-terms we subtract the

exponents to get

[k * (2n+1/2) * pi] - (k * 2n * pi)

(length of OB)/(length of OA) = e

[k * (1/2) * pi]

= e

So now we have two expressions for the ratio of OB to OA - the one

from the definition of a Golden Spiral (that the axes' lengths cut off

by the spiral fit the Golden Ratio), and the one we've just derived

using the polar equation. Since these are both equal to the ratio of

OB to OA, we can set them equal to each other to get:

phi = (1 + sqrt(5))/2 = e^[k * (1/2) * pi]

\________ _________/ \_______ _______/

\/ \/

from Golden Ratio from polar equation

Now, remember that in order to get the equation for the spiral,

we need to know a and k, the constants in the polar equation

r = a*e^(k*@). We'll solve for k now by taking the natural

logarithm of both sides:

ln(phi) = ln(e^[k * (1/2) * pi])

= k * (1/2) * pi

Now multiply both sides by (2/pi):

(2/pi) * ln(phi) = (2/pi) * k * (1/2) * pi

= k

Now, remember way back at the beginning when we said that the Golden

Spiral had an equation of the form r = a * e^(k * @)? We now know what

k is. So we can now say that the equation for the Golden Spiral is

(2/pi) * ln(phi) * @

r = a * e

where r is the radius of the spiral, a is another constant we haven't

determined yet, phi is the golden ratio = 1+sqrt(5))/2, and @/theta

is the angle that the radius has opened up to, measured from the

positive x-axis.

We can write this another way. Using the rules of exponents, the

exponential function, and natural logs, we can say that

k = (2/pi) * ln(phi) moving the coefficent of the

natural log to the exponent of

= ln[phi^(2/pi)] its argument - a natural log rule

ln[phi^(2/pi)] * @

r = a * e substituting k back into

r = a*e^(k*@)

/ ln[phi^(2/pi)] \ @

= a * (e ) ) a rule of exponents

\ /

/ (2/pi) \ @

= a * (phi ) simplifying the inside using a

\ / natural log rule

[(2/pi) * @]

r = a * phi a rule of exponents

Here, finally, is our equation, given in polar coordinates. But what

about a? Well, this equation will always produce a golden spiral, no

matter what a is. (Can you see why? Look back at how a golden spiral

is defined. How do different values of a affect the graph?)

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