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For example, a number of studies have shown that faces judged to be beautiful, regardless of culture, are highly symmetrical. Nature seems to have a bias in favor of balanced pairs — two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, two wings. Two recent studies found that greater symmetry in men corresponds with more and faster-swimming sperm….
[ ]..Marquardt’s work has an artistic spin to it. Like Euclid, Leonardo da Vinci and Le Corbusier before him, the doctor became fascinated with the possibility that beauty itself could be quantified. His instincts told him that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. “I didn’t find that to be true,” he explains in an interview. “Guys seem to agree. They may argue over whether they prefer Michelle Pfeiffer or Kim Basinger, but you never hear anyone say Roseanne Barr.”
[ ]…The Golden Mean is a ratio that appears to connect (in some uncanny way) with all sorts of sensually pleasing creations, man-made and organic. Many readers today are familiar with the idea from Dan Brown’s blockbuster The Da Vinci Code , but Marquardt had developed his theory long before the book was written. The Golden Mean and the related mathematical sequence known as Fibonacci numbers lie behind such elegant shapes as the spiral seashell of the chambered nautilus and the five-pointed star on the American flag. The same principle also predicts such phenomena as the perfect arrangement of petals on a flower to maximize the surface area exposed to the sun.
Picture the ratio in its simplest form: two lines. The first line is an inch long, and the second approximately 1.618 inches. (The exact length of the second line is called phi, and like its more famous cousin pi, it goes on endlessly after the decimal point.) The ratio of these two lines, 1 to 1.618, is the Golden Mean.
What’s so golden about it? Well, suppose you joined the two lines — call them section one and section two. Their combined length, section three, is 1.618 times longer than the second section by itself. Which, you’ll recall, is 1.618 times longer than the first section. Now combine section three with section two, and sure enough — the combination is 1.618 times longer than section three by itself.
And so on. The most famous representation of the Golden Mean is Leonardo’s drawing “Vitruvian Man” — the one with the nude fellow inside a circle, arms and legs outstretched like spokes in a wheel. The golden ratio is everywhere: the distance from the top of the figure’s head to the middle of his chest is 1.618 times the length of the head alone.
What’s more, beauty is now a mass phenomenon, almost as ubiquitous as electricity or water. Hard to remember, but high-speed, high-quality color printing is only about 50 years old (the same is true for color television). Our world, in which ordinary people view hundreds of lifelike, full-color, drop-dead gorgeous images daily, is entirely the product of that brief period. For most of history, ordinary people saw few, if any, deliberately beautiful images in their entire lives. Paintings and sculptures were for palaces and cathedrals; most human beings until recently lived on farms or in isolated villages. If they visited town and saw a beautiful statue in the square, the sheer rarity of that experience would heighten the sense that this beauty was in no way related to their common lives.
Now, movies and television give us beauty as an everyday experience.
Just part of a much longer article at the link. I am not sure that because beauty can be universally defined as a Golden Mean of symmetry that it makes the concept of shallowness obsolete. Though I can appreciate in an historical perspective why beauty and that concept of symmetry has become something of an obsession. It is akin to being a poor child. If you are poor, you may not realize the extent of the poverty until there is some other standard that a poor child becomes aware of. If most of what you know as beauty is just your fellow villagers rather then show after show or page after page of very Golden Mean people then your self perceptions might regard that image in the mirror as at least not too bad. If on the other hand from the time you’re old enough to focus on the image you’re bombarded with images of people that define the standard then that mirror may suggest that by comparison you might be poor. Not to suggest that we start banning images so some people will not fill bad by comparison, that really would be a degree of what Ray Bradbury warned us about in Fahrenheit 411; a society that has banned all books because parts of them made people feel emotions that were uncomfortable or disturbing. Since censorship is a nightmare that leaves the responsibility for our insecurities on us as individuals with no easy answers.
Couldn’t resist throwing in a little irreverent humor from Bill Maher, A Re-Look-See at the Constitution
There’s no out-of-the-box thinking in this country. If we were really looking for a new direction, we’d not just change Congress, we’d have another Constitutional Convention, as Jefferson suggested we do. Jefferson said: “Let us provide in our Constitution for its revision. . . every 19 or 20 years. . . so that it may be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation.” He himself was saying, “I’m a bright guy, but even I can’t foresee the iPod.” Or the assault rifle.
But that’s Jefferson’s phrase: periodical repairs. This thing needs periodical repairs, but it hasn’t been in the shop for 219 years. Of course it’s belching oil. Literally. And that’s because one of the glaring flaws a Constitutional Convention might correct is something called corporate personhood, which means somewhere along the way, stupid or corrupted courts gave corporations all the rights of individuals, with none of the liability. If some person defecates on your lawn, we throw him in jail, but if a corporation does it, they get a tax break. Somehow “we the people” got to be defined as Halliburton. This thing needs to go in the shop!
As a country we took a terrible turn into a scum filled ditch when we gave corporartions more rights then people and did so without giving them the same burden of responsibility. That we have certain groups how trying to shield corporations from liability is almost beyond satire.