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No. 118: Jul-Aug 1998

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Measuring Beauty

The Golden Ratio. In SF#107, we saw how some of Mozart's compositions are divided according the the Golden Ratio: 0.618. Even the ancient Greeks believed this ratio to be the secret of beauty in form and shape. Our greatest painters, sculptors, and architects have employed the Golden Ratio intentionally or unknowingly.

Realizing this august history of the Golden Ratio, it is surprising to learn that a test of 51 established artists and sculptors has cast doubt upon the whole business.

The subjects were asked to take a pencil and divide line segments into two parts such that they formed the most pleasing proportion. The ratio of choice was a disappointing 1:2 rather than 0.618!

(Macrosson, W.D.K., and Stewart, P.E.; "The Inclination of Artists to Partition Line Sections in the Golden Ratio," Perceptual and Motor Skills, 84:707, 1997.)

Why Barbie Is Beautiful. A study of a long series of hominid fossils reveals a progressive loss of some physical attributes and the acquisition of other characteristics. One wonders why evolution has been remodeling the human form in what often seem to be nonadaptive ways. A curious, superficially frivolous test may offer some insights, some of which may be profound.

Drawings and photographs showing humans with various physical traits were prepared and shown to 495 subjects, who were asked to select the most attractive characteristics.

Apparently, human males have been selecting their mates for these traits. The fossil record indicates this Barbie trend over millions of years. In effect, humans are selectively breeding themselves with Barbie as a goal for women.

Interestingly, dolls with more of the primitive traits have never been able to compete with Barbie in the marketplace.

(Magro, Albert M.; "Why Barbie is Perceived as Beautiful," Perceptual and Motor Skills, 85:363, 1997.)

Comments. The article did not mention bosoms or buttocks. Nor were males considered. It follows, though, that men must be evolving in the direction of Ken, Barbie's well-known boy friend.

From Science Frontiers #118, JUL-AUG 1998. � 1998-2000 William R. Corliss