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The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number Library Binding – 5 Jun 2008


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Product details

  • Library Binding
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1435298330
  • ISBN-13: 978-1435298330
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 13.3 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 907,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

“[An] entertaining review of the history of mathematics . . . A nice mental workout.” — Linda Schlossberg, San Francisco Chronicle

“Engagingly enthusiastic . . . It’s hard not to feel inspired and even unsettled by the hidden order Livio reveals.” — New Scientist

“Numbers aficionados will delight in astrophysicist Livio's history of an irrational number whose fame is second only to that of pi. . . . Livio's encyclopedic selection of subjects, supported by dozens of illustrations, will snare anyone with a recreational interest in mathematics.” — Booklist --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Mario Livio is head of the Science Division at the Hubble Space Telescope Institute, where he studies a broad range of subjects in astrophysics, particularly the rate of expansion of the universe. He is the author of one previous book, The Accelerating Universe (2000). He is a frequent public lecturer at such venues as the Smithsonian Institution and the Hayden Planetarium. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.


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First Sentence
The famous British physicist Lord Kelvin (William Thomson; 1824-1907), after whom the degrees in the absolute temperature scale are named, once said in a lecture: "When you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind." Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Paul on 3 April 2004
Format: Paperback
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 them in the same level of detail. But he isn't done yet. We get to have the same discussion again when we look at Renaissance paintings. I didn't really care about the discussion when discussing the pyramids but by the time I heard the argument for the third time I was ready to find something else to read. As he discusses the history of the golden section he goes into side trips to discuss anyone who had even the slightest relationship with phi. Anyone who has never heard of Kepler may find this interesting even if it is irrelevant to phi but I just started skimming pages hoping for something a little meatier. There is a little spark here and there that kept me reading hoping for more but more never arrived. A writer with a greater interest in the mathematics of phi could have made this a fun and interesting book. Livio seems to think the math is boring so he avoids it like the plague and creates a book that completely misses the point and ends up being a total bore.
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Format: Library Binding Verified Purchase
A very good explanation of the history behind this number, although the mathematical explanations might have been simplified a little more, to introduce the calculations a little more clearly to the non-expert.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By S. Wilton on 28 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback
In this book Mario Livio writes the detailed story of the most irrational of all numbers.
To help with later chapters he writes a bit of basic number origin in the opening chapters; he then progresses onto where this number, phi, has been reportedly shown to appear in ancient buildings.
He then takes a spiralling journey with the book through some classical mathematics (The 13 Elements) through to Leonardo of Pisa (Fibonacci). He dwells here for a while as there are some interesting aspects of recreational mathematics that link phi and the Fibonacci Sequence; for example the sequence creates a spiral approaching the logarithmic spiral produced by phi.
He then finishes up with some 'real-world' examples where phi has shown up in recent times, like the structure of quasi-crystals.

The material inside shouldn't be challenging for any reader and the content wont be found on any traditional maths degree course (and a far sight more interesting - I should know as I am a Maths Undergrad).

In short an excellent entry level popular science book which is well worth a read for this price.
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