Friday, April 17, 2015

Weekend Links

1. The not so Golden Ratio (FastCompany)
In the world of art, architecture, and design, the golden ratio has earned a tremendous reputation. Greats like Le Corbusier and Salvador DalĂ­ have used the number in their work. The Parthenon, the Pyramids at Giza, the paintings of Michelangelo, the Mona Lisa, even the Apple logo are all said to incorporate it. 
It's bullshit. The golden ratio's aesthetic bona fides are an urban legend, a myth, a design unicorn. Many designers don't use it, and if they do, they vastly discount its importance. There's also no science to really back it up. Those who believe the golden ratio is the hidden math behind beauty are falling for a 150-year-old scam.
2. On definitions and why 0! = 1 (John D. Cook)
Things are defined the way they are for good reasons. This seems blatantly obvious now, but it was eye-opening when I learned this my first year in college. Our professor, Mike Starbird, asked us to go home and think about how convergence of a series should be defined. Not how it is defined, but how it should be defined. We were not to look up the definition up but to think about what it should be. The next day we proposed our definitions. In good Socratic fashion Starbird showed us the flaws of each and lead us to arrive at the standard definition.
3. Americanism? Really? (The Independent) Language associated with the US, that originated in Britain. For context, read how much suffering it causes in the wrong circles. I also thought that recommendations in The Economist's style guide were funny/interesting.
If you use Americanisms just to show you know them, people may find you a tad tiresome, so be discriminating. Many American words and expressions have passed into the language; others have vigour, particularly if used sparingly. Some are short and to the point (so prefer lay off to make redundant). But many are unnecessarily long (so use and not additionally, car not automobile, company not corporation, court not courtroom or courthouse, transport not transportation, district not neighbourhood, oblige not obligate, rocket not skyrocket, stocks not inventories unless there is the risk of confusion with stocks and shares). Spat and scam, two words beloved by some journalists, have the merit of brevity, but so do row and fraud; squabble and swindle might sometimes be used instead. The military, used as a noun, is nearly always better put as the army. Normalcy and specialty have good English alternatives, normality and speciality (see Spellings). Gubernatorial is an ugly word that can almost always be avoided.
4. What the Higgs! (an old but great NYT explanation)

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