# Beauty Of and In Numbers

Mathematics seems to explain and underlie much of our modern world: manufacturing, exploration, transportation, logistics, healthcare, technology — all depend on numbers in one form or another. So it should come as no surprise that there are mathematical formulae that describe our notions of beauty. This would seem to be counter-intuitive since beauty is a very subjective experience for all of us — one person’s colorful, blotted mess is another’s Jackson Pollock masterpiece. Yet, mathematicians have known for some time that there is a certain composition of sizes that are more frequently characterized as beautiful than others. Known as the golden ratio, architects, designers and artists have long exploited this mathematical formula to render their works more appealing.

From Wired:

Mathematical concepts can be difficult to grasp, but given the right context they can help explain some of the world’s biggest mysteries. For instance, what is it about a sunflower that makes it so pleasing to look at? Or why do I find the cereal box-shaped United Nations building in New York City to be so captivating?

Beauty may very well be subjective, but there’s thought to be mathematical reasoning behind why we’re attracted to certain shapes and objects. Called the golden ratio, this theory states there’s a recurring proportion of arrangement that lends certain things their beauty. Represented as an equation: a/b = (a+b)/a, the golden ratio is all around us—conical sea shells, human faces, flower petals, buildings—we just don’t always know we’re looking at it. In Golden Meaning, a new book from London publisher GraphicDesign&, 55 designers aim to demystify the golden ratio using clever illustrations and smart graphic design.

GraphicDesign& founders Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright partnered up with math evangelist Alex Bellos to develop the book, with the main goal of making math accessible through design. “We want this to be a useful tool to demonstrate something that often makes people anxious,” explains Roberts. “We hope it’s as interesting to people who are interested in math as it is to the people who are interested in the visual.”

Each designer came at the problem from a different angle, but in order to appreciate the cleverness found in the book, it’s important to have a little background on the golden mean. Bellos uses this line to illustrate the concept at its most basic.

n Golden Meaning he writes: “The line is separated into two sections in such a way that the ratio of the whole line to the larger section is equal to the ratio of the larger section to the smaller section.” This ratio ends up being 1.618.

Salvador Dali and Le Corbusier have used the golden mean as a guiding principle in their work, the Taj Mahal was designed with it in mind, and it’s thought that many of the faces of attractive people follow these proportions. The golden ratio then is essentially a formula for beauty.

With this in mind, Robert and Wright gave designers a simple brief: To explore, explain and communicate the golden ratio however they see fit. There’s a recipe for golden bars that requires bakers to parcel out ingredients based the ratio instead of exact measurements, an illustration that shows a bottle of wine being poured into glasses using the ratio. The book itself is actually a golden rectangle. “You get it much more than looking at an equation,” says Roberts.

A particular favorite shows two side-by-side images of British designer Oli Kellett. On the left is his normal face, on the right is the same face after he rearranged his features in accordance to the golden ratio. So is he really more beautiful after his mathematical surgery? “We liked him as he is,” says Roberts. “In a way it disproves the theory.”

Read the entire article here.

Image: Several examples of the golden ratio at work, from the book Golden Meaning by GraphicDesign&. Courtesy of GraphicDesign&.

# Video Game. But is it Art?

Only yesterday we posted a linguist’s claim that text-speak is an emerging language. You know, text-speak is that cryptic communication process that most teenagers engage in with their smartphones. Leaving aside the merits of including text-speak in the catalog of around 6,600 formal human languages, one thing is clear — text-speak is not Shakespearean English. So, don’t expect to see a novel written in it win the Nobel Prize for Literature, yet.

Strangely though, the same cannot be said for another recent phenomenon, the video game. Increasingly, some video games are being described in the same language that critics would normally reserve for a contemporary painting on canvas. Yes, welcome to the world of video game as art. If you have ever played the immersive game Myst, or its sequel Riven (the original games came on CDROM), you will see why many classify the beautifully designed and rendered aesthetics as art. MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York thinks so too.

[div class=attrib]From the Guardian:[end-div]

New York’s Museum of Modern Art will be home to something more often associated with pasty teens and bar scenes when it opens an exhibit on video games on Friday.

Tetris, Pac-Man and the Sims are just a few of the classic games that will be housed inside a building that also displays works by Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and Frida Kahlo. And though some may question whether video games are even art, the museum is incorporating the games into its Applied Design installation.

MoMA consulted scholars, digital experts, historians and critics to select games for the gallery based on their aesthetic quality – including the programming language used to create them. MoMA’s senior curator for architecture and design, Paola Antonelli, said the material used to create games is important in the same way the wood used to create a stool is.

With that as the focus, games are presented in their original formats, absent the consoles that often define them. Some will be playable with controllers, and more complex, long-running games like SimCity 2000 are presented as specially designed walkthroughs and demos.

MoMA’s curatorial team tailored controls especially for each of the playable games, including a customized joystick created for the Tetris game.

Some of the older games, which might have fragile or rare cartridges, will be displayed as “interactive emulation”, with a programmer translating the game code to something that will work on a newer computer system.

[div class=attrib]Read the entire article following the jump.[end-div]

[div class=attrib]Image: Myst, Cyan Inc. Courtesy of Cyan, Inc / Wikipedia.[end-div]