For a while this morning, I thought about NOT writing a post. However, a couple of things encourage me to write. 1/ my granddaughters read my blog, 2/ I need to write a bit each day, a requirement from keeping journals and diaries most of my life….it is a habit long-standing, as are reading and walking, invaluable in these days when my faculties are supposedly waning.
This morning, I began a book by Mario Livio, The Golden Ratio, The Story of Phi, the world’s most astonishing number. I am not a mathematician, but numbers became more and more interesting to me as I worked with mathematicians, economists and other statisticians over four decades.
While I was working, one of my greatest joys was the pleasure of associating with educated individuals who either had been college professors, or who went on to teach in a university or college after they left the Congressional staff which employed me in the 1970s, or the Census Bureau in the 1990s and beyond. In the 1980s, while I worked for the part of Bell that became Verizon, I attended statistical courses in New Jersey and Denver, designed by the mathematician John Tukey, a professor at Princeton associated with Bell Labs,
Over time, three different bosses and one co-worker left my place of employment to teach at the University of Hawaii. Other colleagues left to teach at Michigan, Columbia and Chicago. They were a classy lot.
The father of one of the fellows I worked with had been a scientist at Oak Ridge where he worked on the Manhattan Project. You can imagine how bright the son was. Another boss taught at Michigan, and several bosses and co-workers had been either graduate students or professors at Berkeley in the once vibrant Department of Demography. Others who worked with me taught at local universities.
The long and the short of it is that I continued to receive a mathematical and statistical education on the job for many years. However, eventually, despite all this wonderful exposure I had aged and a young ignoramus of a boss was able to effectively end my career by reassigning my work to younger, less educated co-workers, leaving me with work juniors learning new jobs should have performed. Such is the way of things in some organizations where ‘fast-track’ con artists operate and build their own personal teams.
Even though I am not a mathematician, I learned much about the applied aspects of this subject which underlies all reality. And, although I am no longer working with math, I continue to enjoy its properties.
Take a simple example Livio provides, which you can do yourself. Cut an apple in half through the middle. You will discover the seed bed is composed of a perfect pentagram containing five isosceles triangles. Euclid made this discovery over 2,000 years ago. Because of these properties, apples were considered magical for a long time.
Because they found it everywhere, artists working during Renaissance believed mathematics was the language of God, especially φ or phi, the Golden Mean. If you look for it, you can find the Golden Ratio
The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World’s Most Astonishing Number by Mario Livio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The golden ratio (phi) represented as a line divided into two segments a and b, such that the entire line is to the longer a segment as the a segment is to the shorter b segment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
in art, in architecture, in astronomy, the pyramids, the human face, music and in nature in shells and rose petals.