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Good Math by Mark C. Chu-Carroll

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7φ: The Golden Ratio

Now we get to a number that really annoys me. I’m not a big fan of the golden ratio, also known as φ (“phi”). It’s a number that has been adopted by all sorts of flakes and crazies, and there are alleged sightings of it in all sorts of strange places that are simply not real. For example, new-age pyramid worshipers claim that the great pyramids in Egypt have proportions that come from the golden ratio, but the simple truth is that they don’t. Animal mystics claim that the ratio of drones to larvae in a beehive is approximately the golden ratio, but it isn’t.

The thing is, the value of the golden ratio is (1 + sqrt(5))/2, or roughly 1.6. It’s just a hair more than 1 ½. Sitting there, it’s naturally close to lots of different ...

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