Quotes from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number

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“Our mathematics is the symbolic counterpart of the universe we perceive, and its power has been continuously enhanced by human exploration.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“Pythagoras was born around 570 B.C. in the island of Samos in the Aegean Sea (off Asia Minor), and he emigrated sometime between 530 and 510 to Croton in the Dorian colony in southern Italy (then known as Magna Graecia). Pythagoras apparently left Samos to escape the stifling tyranny of Polycrates (died ca. 522 B.C.), who established Samian naval supremacy in the Aegean Sea. Perhaps following the advice of his presumed teacher, the mathematician Thales of Miletus, Pythagoras probably lived for some time (as long as twenty-two years, according to some accounts) in Egypt, where he would have learned mathematics, philosophy, and religious themes from the Egyptian priests. After Egypt was overwhelmed by Persian armies, Pythagoras may have been taken to Babylon, together with members of the Egyptian priesthood. There he would have encountered the Mesopotamian mathematical lore. Nevertheless, the Egyptian and Babylonian mathematics would prove insufficient for Pythagoras' inquisitive mind. To both of these peoples, mathematics provided practical tools in the form of "recipes" designed for specific calculations. Pythagoras, on the other hand, was one of the first to grasp numbers as abstract entities that exist in their own right.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“The Golden Rectangle is the only rectangle with the property that cutting a square from it produces a similar rectangle.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“Because of the "divine" properties attributed to the Golden Ratio, mathematician Clifford A. Pickover suggested that we should refer to that point as "the Eye of God.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“Some ancient Indian texts claim that numbers are almost divine, or "Brahma-natured.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number



“The Greek excellence in mathematics was largely a direct consequence of their passion for knowledge for its own sake, rather than merely for practical purposes. A story has it that when a student who learned one geometrical proposition with Euclid asked, "But what do I gain from this?" Euclid told his slave to give the boy a coin, so that the student would see an actual profit.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“Supporters of the "modified Platonic view" of mathematics like to point out that, over the centuries, mathematicians have produced (or "discovered") numerous objects of pure mathematics with absolutely no application in mind. Decades later, these mathematical constructs and models were found to provide solutions to problems in physics. Penrose tilings and non-Euclidean geometries are beautiful testimonies to this process of mathematics unexpectedly feeding into physics, but there are many more.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“The curriculum for the education of statesmen at the time of Plato included arithmetic, geometry, solid geometry, astronomy, and music-all of which, the Pythagorean Archytas tells us, fell under the general definition of "mathematics." According to legend, when Alexander the Great asked his teacher Menaechmus (who is reputed to have discovered the curves of the ellipse, the parabola, and the hyperbola) for a shortcut to geometry, he got the reply: "O King, for traveling over the country there are royal roads and roads for common citizens; but in geometry there is one road for all.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“Jacques was so impressed with the beauty of the curve known as a logarithmic spiral (Figure 37; the name was derived from the way in which the radius grows as we move around the curve clockwise) that he asked that this shape, and the motto he assigned to it: "Eadem mutato resurgo" (although changed, I rise again the same), be engraved on his tombstone.

The motto describes a fundamental property unique to the logarithmic spiral-it does not alter its shape as its size increases. This feature is known as self-similarity. Fascinated by this property, Jacques wrote that the logarithmic spiral "may be used as a symbol, either of fortitude and constancy in adversity, or of the human body, which after all its changes, even after death, will be restored to its exact and perfect self.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“Nature loves logarithmic spirals. From sunflowers, seashells, and whirlpools, to hurricanes and giant spiral galaxies, it seems that nature chose this marvelous shape as its favorite "ornament." The constant shape of the logarithmic spiral on all size scales reveals itself beautifully in nature in the shapes of minuscule fossils or unicellular organisms known as foraminifera. Although the spiral shells in this care are composite structures (and not one continuous tube), X-ray images of the internal structure of these fossils show that the shape of the logarithmic spiral remained essentially unchanged for millions of years.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number



“Pythagoras apparently wrote nothing, and yet his influence was so great that the more attentive of his followers formed a secretive society, or brotherhood, and were known as the Pythagoreans.

Aristippus of Cyrene tells us in his Account of Natural Philosphers that Pythagoras derived his name from the fact that he was speaking (agoreuein) truth like the God at Delphi (tou Pythiou).”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“The Golden Ratio has the unique properties that we produce its square by simply adding the number 1 and its reciprocal by subtracting the number 1.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“To claim that mathematics is purely a human invention and is successful in explaining nature only because of evolution and natural selection ignores some important facts in the nature of mathematics and in the history of theoretical models of the universe. First, while the mathematical rules (e.g., the axioms of geometry or of set theory) are indeed creations of the human mind, once those rules are specified, we lose our freedom. The definition of the Golden Ratio emerged originally from the axioms of Euclidean geometry; the definition of the Fibonacci sequence from the axioms of the theory of numbers. Yet the fact that the ratio of successive Fibonacci numbers converges to the Golden Ratio was imposed on us-humans had not choice in the matter. Therefore, mathematical objects, albeit imaginary, do have real properties. Second, the explanation of the unreasonable power of mathematics cannot be based entirely on evolution in the restricted sense. For example, when Newton proposed his theory of gravitation, the data that he was trying to explain were at best accurate to three significant figures. Yet his mathematical model for the force between any two masses in the universe achieved the incredible precision of better than one part in a million. Hence, that particular model was not forced on Newton by existing measurements of the motions of planets, nor did Newton force a natural phenomenon into a preexisting mathematical pattern. Furthermore, natural selection in the common interpretation of that concept does not quite apply either, because it was not the case that five competing theories were proposed, of which one eventually won. Rather, Newton's was the only game in town!”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“There were also many cases of feedback between physics and mathematics, where a physical phenomenon inspired a mathematical model that later proved to be the explanation of an entirely different physical phenomenon. An excellent example is provided by the phenomenon known as Brownian motion. In 1827, British botanist Robert Brown (1773-1858) observed that wen pollen particles are suspended in water, they get into a state of agitated motion. This effect was explained by Einstein in 1905 as resulting from the collisions that the colloidal particles experience with the molecules of the surrounding fluid. Each single collision has a negligible effect, because the pollen grains are millions of times more massive than the water molecules, but the persistent bombardment has a cumulative effect. Amazingly, the same model was found to apply to the motions of stars in star clusters. There the Brownian motion is produced by the cumulative effect of many stars passing by any given star, with each passage altering the motion (through gravitational interaction) by a tiny amount.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“In it, Porphyry says about Pythagoras: "He himself could hear the harmony of the Universe, and understood the music of the spheres, and the stars which move in concert with them, and which we cannot hear because of the limitations of our weak nature.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number



“Having witnessed in his own life much agony and the horrors of war, Kepler concluded that Earth really created two notes, mi for misery ("miseria" in Latin) and fa for famine ("fames" in Latin). In Kepler's words: "the Earth sings MI FA MI, so that even from the syllable you may guess that in this home of ours Misery and Famine hold sway.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“Even though it is almost impossible to attribute with certainty any specific mathematical achievements either to Pythagoras himself or to his followers, there is no question that they have been responsible for a mingling of mathematics, philosophy of life, and religion unparalleled in history. In this respect it is perhaps interesting to note the historical coincidence that Pythagoras was a contemporary of Buddha and Confucius.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“Wolfram, one of the most innovative thinkers in scientific computing and in the theory of complex systems, has been best known for the development of Mathematica, a computer program/system that allows a range of calculations not accessible before. After ten years of virtual silence, Wolfram is about to emerge with a provocative book that makes the bold claim that he can replace the basic infrastructure of science. In a world used to more than three hundred years of science being dominated by mathematical equations as the basic building blocks of models for nature, Wolfram proposes simple computer programs instead. He suggests that nature's main secret is the use of simple programs to generate complexity.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“For example, the central idea in Einstein's theory of general relativity is that gravity is not some mysterious, attractive force that acts across space but rather a manifestation of the geometry of the inextricably linked space and time. Let me explain, using a simple example, how a geometrical property of space could be perceived as an attractive force, such as gravity. Imagine two people who start to travel precisely northward from two different point on Earth's equator. This means that at their starting points, these people travel along parallel lines (two longitudes), which, according to the plane geometry we learn in school, should never meet. Clearly, however, these two people will meet at the North Pole. if these people did not know that they were really traveling on the curved surface of a sphere, they would conclude that they must have experienced some attractive force, since they arrived at the same point in spite of starting their motions along parallel lines. Therefore, the geometrical curvature of space can manifest itself as an attractive force.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“Leonardo had considerable interest in geometry, especially for its practical applications in mathematics. In his words: "Mechanics is the paradise of the mathematical sciences, because by means of it one comes to the fruits of mathematics.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number



“Pythagoras is in fact credited with having coined the words "philosophy" ("love of wisdom") and "mathematics" ("that which is learned"). To him, a "philosopher" was someone who "gives himself up to discovering the meaning and purpose of life itself...to uncover the secrets of nature." Pythagoras emphasized the importance of learning above all other activities, because, in his words, "most men and women, by birth or nature, lack the means to advance in wealth and power, but all have the ability to advance in knowledge.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“The Pythagoreans were probably the first to recognize the concept that the basic forces in the universe may be expressed through the language of mathematics.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“Accordingly, Pacioli's book also starts with a discussion of proportions in the human body, "since in the human body every sort of proportion and proportionality can be found, produced at the beck of the all-Highest through the inner mysteries of nature.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“The number 6 was the first perfect number, and the number of creation. The adjective "perfect" was attached that are precisely equal to the sum of all the smaller numbers that divide into them, as 6=1+2+3. The next such number, incidentally, is 28=1+2+4+7+14, followed by 496=1+2+4+8+16+31+62+124+248; by the time we reach the ninth perfect number, it contains thirty-seven digits. Six is also the product of the first female number, 2, and the first masculine number, 3. The Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo Judaeus of Alexandria (ca. 20 B.C.-c.a. A.D. 40), whose work brought together Greek philosophy and Hebrew scriptures, suggested that God created the world in six days because six was a perfect number. The same idea was elaborated upon by St. Augustine (354-430) in The City of God: "Six is a number perfect in itself, and not because God created the world in six days; rather the contrary is true: God created the world in six days because this number is perfect, and it would remain perfect, even if the work of the six days did not exist." Some commentators of the Bible regarded 28 also as a basic number of the Supreme Architect, pointing to the 28 days of the lunar cycle. The fascination with perfect numbers penetrated even into Judaism, and their study was advocated in the twelfth century by Rabbi Yosef ben Yehudah Ankin in his book, Healing of the Souls.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“Twentieth-century British mathematician G.H. Hardy also believed that the human function is to "discover or observe" mathematics rather than to invent it. In other words, the abstract landscape of mathematics was there, waiting for mathematical explorers to reveal it.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number



“In the Middle Ages, the Elements was translated into Arabic three times. The first of these translations was carried out by al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf ibn Matar, at the request of Caliph Harun ar-Rashid (ruled 786 - 809), who is familiar to us through the stories in The Arabian Nights. The Elements was first made known in Western Europe through Latin translations of Arabic versions. English Benedictine monk Adelard of Bath (ca. 1070 - 1145), who according to some stories was traveling in Spain disguised as a Muslim student, got hold of an Arabic text and completed the translation into Latin around 1120. This translation became the basis of all editions in Europe until the sixteenth century. Translations into modern languages followed.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“So, what is light? Is it a pure bombardment by particles (photons) or a pure wave? Really, it is neither. Light is a more complicated physical phenomenon than any single one of these concepts, which are based on classical physical models, can describe. To describe the propagation of light and to understand the phenomena like interference, we can and have to use the electromagnetic wave theory. When we want to discuss the interaction of light with elementary particles, however, we have to use the photon description. This picture, in which the particle and wave descriptions complement each other, has become known as the wave-particle duality. The modern quantum theory of light has unified the classical notions of waves and particles in the concept of probabilities. The electromagnetic field is represented by a wave function, which gives the probabilities of finding the field in certain modes. The photon is the energy associated with these modes.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“Computer scientist and author Douglas R. Hofstadter phrased this succinctly in his fantastic book Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid: "Provability is a weaker notion than truth." In this sense, there will never be a formal method of determining for every mathematical proposition whether it is absolutely true, any more than there is a way to determine whether a theory in physics is absolutely true. Oxford's mathematical physicist Roger Penrose is among those who believe that Godel's theorems argue powerfully for the very existence of a Platonic mathematical world.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“While Euclid himself may not have been the greatest mathematician who ever lived, he was certainly the greatest teacher of mathematics.”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number


“The two solutions of the equation for the Golden Ratio are:

x1 = (1+ Sqr5) / 2

x2 = (1 - Sqr5) / 2”
― quote from The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number



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