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

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3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  3,355 ratings  ·  220 reviews
The first book for the layperson on a mathematical relationship that has obsessed mathematicians, philosophers, scientists, and artists since ancient Greece--an omnipresent number considered to be "divine."
Hardcover, 294 pages
Published September 1st 2003 by Turtleback Books (first published 2002)
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Sabio
When people leave organized religion, they often look for mystical awe elsewhere. Math is a not infrequent haven of new agers who gave up on the tried and true faiths of their parents. Real math takes lots of work, whereas quick mystical attachment takes very little effort.

This book shows how many people have read far too much into Phi (1.6180339887 ...) [The Golden Ratio]. The author shows how, Phi is prevalent in nature, but it is not magically so. Phi's prevalence is due simple to the nature...more
Jasmine
so I stayed up past bedtime tonight to finish this book, not because I love this book, but because I would give anything to not be reading it anymore and now I'm not.

I'm not a platonist. I don't look at concepts made up by humans and say those describe things humans see so they must have a magical relationship to truth. I actually weirdly assume when people make things up those things should be related to what is true so it is a given they will relate to true things.

there were parts of this th...more
Woodge
Here I go all math geeky again. I picked up this slim book (about 250 pages) a couple years ago and then I started thinking about it and felt compelled to read it. (Voices in my head. You know.) The golden ratio, or phi (pronounced "fee"), was first discovered by Euclid (remember him from geometry class?). Somewhere around 300 B.C. Euclid--

YOU: Whoa-whoa-whoa, wait a minute, Woodge... you actually read another book about math. For fun?! Are you for real?
WOODGE: Yeah, you TV Guide-reading eejit!...more
EJ Natale
Terrible book. Poorly written. Vague. No direction.

This book is more numerology. The author creates loose and thin parallels to Phi, then refutes them. This happens repeatedly throughout the book.

The great pyramids might be built based on a ratio similar to phi. Oh, no, maybe not.
Oh, these painting might contain phi built into some of the geometry. Oh, wait, nope. They don't. The artist didn't even know what phi is.
The content makes no sense.

The author goes into lengthy sidebars about art and...more
Christopher Litsinger
My review for this book will consist of the suggestion of a new title: "In which the author describes in great detail several ways in which the Golden Ratio was documented to be used in art and architecture and then proves those ways to be false with very little detail, and then rambles on for a bit about some other number theory and whether or not God is a mathematician, but generally leaves you somewhat less impressed with Phi than you were to begin with"
I'll admit it's not very catchy, but it...more
Tim
Mathematical constants make engaging characters in the popular imagination. At least the rash of books for general audiences in this vein published in the last two decades suggests this. Astro-physicist Livio's leading character is a somewhat less well-known constant - those special numbers discovered or created by mathematicians over the centuries. Phi - the so-called Golden Ratio - has been known since Euclid. Geometrically, given a line AB cut by point C, where AC > CB, then locate C on th...more
Ob-jonny
This is a great book about number theory in general and is much more than just the discussion of phi, the golden ratio. It is truly amazing to see how often this number and ratio are found in nature. The widths of the spirals of pinecones and various flowers display the ratio as due patterns in the breeding of rabbits. But some of the numerical properties of the number are equally fascinating. For instance 1/phi is equal to 1 + phi. There is also a section on prime numbers which is just as inter...more
Jill
The Fibonacci sequence (and its consequent relationship to the Golden Ratio) is one of my favourite things. No, really. So I went into this book already interested and somewhat informed. Not sure if that would make a difference, though, because Livio's treatment of this topic is really solid. For one thing, it's clearly written -- which always helps for the artsy reader -- and while formulae and proofs litter the pages, concrete examples and pictures show up frequently. The structure of the book...more
Kyle Wright
Having expected a book filled to the brim with Phi related information, I feel let down by the end result. Livio's book covers a broad history of mathematics and geometry in general, with instances of phi thrown in where context allows. While I did learn a lot of interesting information about the origins of math, I felt that Livio left little space for the phi-related aspects, which was the primary purpose of my reading this book.

When Livio does manage to address phi directly, he does so by debu...more
Upom
The Golden Ratio turned out to be somewhat interesting, but ultimately tedious book about phi. The book does a decent job of covering what exactly phi is, its fantastic mathematical properties, as well as some of its appearances in nature. That being said, much of the books is a critique of where it DOESN'T appear. Although debunking claims of appearing in the golden pyramids and art is important in scholarship, it certainly takes away from the magic of the number, as well as makes for boring re...more
Thomas Paul
What a depressing book this turned out to be. I thought a book about the "golden section" would have been interesting but in the hands of Mario Livio it is pure pain. To give a few examples... The author discusses the theory that the golden ratio was used by the builders of the pyramids and refutes it easily. And then continues to refute it for page after page. Then he does the same thing with the Parthenon, destroying the theory using the exact same reasons he used for the pyramid, explaining t...more
Ryan
The scholarship in this book is extremely poor. We should expect better from someone this well credentialed. For all the mystical nonsense and grandiose claims regarding where the Golden Ratio appears in art, this book over compensates and makes the opposite mistake without considering the facts. The author is guilty of the very thing he criticizes. Livio obviously wrote this book with a preconceived idea of what he wanted to be true, and didn't do any serious research before he wrote it. If he...more
Eleclyah

"La sezione aurea" ovvero "Opere famose che non hanno nulla a che spartire con ɸ"
Non è mia abitudine lasciare da parte un libro, ma quando è troppo, è troppo.
La storia di ɸ, un numero irrazionale che vale 1,618..., e del suo sorprendente ricorrere negli ambiti più svariati, è un argomento che ben si sarebbe prestato alla stesura di un saggio valido.
Quello di Mario Livio mi ricorda vagamente un trattato esoterico un po' fuori luogo, in cui gli appassionati di ɸ (categoria di cui lui, per fortuna,...more
Mikael Lind
A fascinating historical expose about how a single number, phi, has (or is believed to have) influenced human creation within such different fields as music, art, architecture and, of course, mathematics of different kind.

The book's strength is that you don't have to be a mathematical minded person to be able to understand it. I could follow the mathematical formulas roughly by the mathematical knowledge I gained more than fifteen years ago, but even though I was persistent enough to try to foll...more
Gendou
Phi has some surprising mathematical properties, which are eventually discussed here and there throughout the book.

Mostly, this book is a history of mathematics. From the etymology of numbers, to the Pythagorean brotherhood, and the discovery of incommensurability, and finally, to modern day mathematics.

The book dispels myths of Phi's use in famous works of art, construction of the pyramids, etc.

I find Livio to be a trustworthy author, who prefers demystification over hyperbole, which I respect....more
Tiffany
I found the seed of the book interesting, but after long strings of repetitions of examples, I got a little bored. I think the author has hit on a voice that works for people with some mathematical background and interest, but I think he's overshot for people who didn't enjoy learning math (on the other hand, would they have picked up the book in the first place?). I confess that I skipped the proofs at the back. But I did enjoy the beginning of the book - brief bits of the history of mathematic...more
White
This book was given to me by my daughter and son-in-law. Excellent read! I was familiar with the golden ration already from a few of the science reads I have done but this book zeros in on it 100 %. You go from the last page mesmerized by the beauty of all existence with an insurmountable awe with the connection of everything. Not even 4 years of studying philosophy can expose you to the awe of this one book.

This book is a mathematical utopia.

A must read.
Gary
I really enjoyed this. The scope of the book was great, through history with stops at art, architecture, music, galaxies, and snails. I really appreciated the skeptical debunking of a lot of the golden ratio claims made about the Pyramids, Parthenon, and even the Mona Lisa. With that nonsense out of the way what really blew my mind was the "surprise" aspect of how the golden ratio turns up in the solutions to other problems. And finally, the last chapter was probably my favorite... the philosoph...more
Neil Munday
i have never understood mathematics but numbers intreig me. this was a easy to read book about that special number Phi, interesting. it also debunked the golden ratio pyramid stuff.
"Mathematics as we know it is nothing is nothing but a human invention..."
Now i'd like to read a book on Pi.
Chris
My never ending quest to comprehend any numbers not addressed in remedial math. This helped a lot. Not dumbed down while not being for physicists only. Very accessible to Land of Oz Pumpkinhead sidekicks like myself.
Phil Smith
I really enjoyed this very thorough but skeptical look at the use of the golden ratio in art and mathematics through the centuries. In cases where documentation existed for the use of Phi, then the arguments are compelling. For cases where the measurements were "close", Livio rejected the assumption that Phi was involved.

The book was 4 or 4 and a half stars, but the Kindle version was riddled with typos and errors. With a book with equations and other mathematics, not checking the electronic ve...more
Andrew
The best way to read this book is to read the first 2 chapters (40 pages total) and then read the last two (50 pages total). The interior 160 pages are absolutely incredibly boring. Mind-numbingly, "why am I reading this book," boring. The only reason I persevered is so I could say I gave the book a fair shot. When Mr. Livio is discussing physics and how math has helped that realm, he is pretty decent. When he is discussing the actual purpose of the book (The Golden Ratio and how it has been use...more
Cameron
I know it is very strange that I was reading a book about Math but this was really cool. This number and ratio are talked about in the book "The Da Vinci Code" and I thought it was interesting in that book. when I saw a friend of mine reading this book I thought I would give it a try. It is amazing to think about how this number comes up so often in so many different things such as math, geometry, architecture, art, Music and even poetry (though I did not understand that part). There are many ti...more
Mark
Mario Livio's The Golden Ratio nicely balanced the last book I read about the world's most astonishing number. Actually, it far surpassed it! While Livio debunks the opinion of others that phi is conspicuous in the ancient pyramids and other monumental ancient works of art, his lively discussion of other places where we are surprised to find phi is enlightening and entertaining. Whether you are curious to know more about the golden number, the golden ratio, the golden triangle, rectangle, rhombo...more
Scarlett Sims
I bought this book several years ago. I'll admit it, I bought it because of the Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown even has a quote on the cover! Which, after I read the book, I thought was kinda weird, because the author spends a lot of time debunking ideas about the appearance of the Golden Ratio in art and architecture. I liked the skeptical approach he took when looking at claims of it being used in the pyramids or the works of Da Vinci.

Really, anyone could read this book, ie non mathematicians, but f...more
Jamie
The full title of this book is The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, The World’s Most Astonishing Number. Now, I know you may not believe me when I say this, but despite this being a BOOK about a NUMBER, it's really not as exciting as you might expect.

Still, I enjoy stepping outside my own areas of expertise or experience and looking into new areas like mathematics. I think the problem is that I’ve been spoiled by stuff like Bill Bryson’s excellent A Brief History of Nearly Everything, which manag...more
Migdalia
Mario Livio knows how to write in a way to make complex ideas comprehensible to the layman. He also makes it an entertaining read.

That being said, this is by no means an easy read. Look, you're dealing with Phi here - a mathematically complex number whose beauty is in its simplicity [I know that sounds contradictory.] IF you can understand the ideas behind it and that spring from it. That's MATHEMATICS with a capital word. Going in, you need to have some basic understanding of it, or you'll curs...more
melydia
If you divide a line so that the ratio of the smaller to the larger is equal to the ratio of the larger to the whole, you have the golden ratio, phi. There has been an abundance of literature on the presence of phi in a number of unexpected locations, and this book addresses many of these appearances intelligently. It is organized more or less historically, starting with the Pythagoreans' obsession with phi (due to its presence in the pentagon and other neat little number tricks) and continuing...more
David
Reading this book was a stimulating experience. Exploring the mathematical principles and theories studied by various past cultures and how they employed them isn't a new idea but this author is uniquely good at it. Other authors in this genre, such as Amir Aczel can sometimes be guilty of spending too much time on sculpting the biography of a math genre and leaving its concepts severely under-explained. Livio however, created what I felt to be an adequate mix between math teaching an math biogr...more
Rick Howard
I wrote this review back in 2004 and published it on Slashdot.
http://news.slashdot.org/story/04/02/...

When I stumbled upon the title again in Goodreads, I decided to re-post it here.

"The book surprised and fascinated me. I thought it was going to be solely about the Golden Ratio. Mario Livio does cover the topic but along the way he throws in some mathematical history and even touches on the idea that math may not be a universal concept spread across the galaxy."

I have to admit that it is a lit...more
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People read this stuff? 7 77 Aug 07, 2013 06:35AM  
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