Golden Ratio

“The Golden Ratio: An Astonishing Number”

Speaker:  Mario Livio, PhD

The number 1.618…, known as “The Golden Ratio,” has fascinated and obsessed mathematicians, scientists, philosophers and artists since antiquity.  Some even considered it to be divine. Astrophysicist, Dr. Mario Livio, will describe the incredible history of this number from antiquity to the present day, and its appearances (true and false) in a variety of natural phenomena, in the arts, and in human-created artifacts.  The talk will encompass a wide range of topics, from botany to physics and from the visual arts and architecture to music.  Dan Brown, author of  “Angels and Demons”, “The Da Vinci Code”, “The Lost Symbols”, and others, says that “Livio unveils the history of the remarkable number phi (pronounced ”fee”) in such a way that math buffs and math-phobes alike can celebrate the wonder. Be forewarned: You will never again look at a pyramid, a pine cone, or a Picasso in the same light…”


“Human Curiosity”

Speaker:  Mario Livio, PhD

The ability to ask “why?” makes us uniquely human. Curiosity drives basic scientific research, is the engine behind creativity in all disciplines from technology to the arts, is a necessary ingredient in education, and is a facilitating tool in every form of storytelling that delights rather than bores. Dr. Livio will survey and interpret cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience that aims at exploring and understanding the origin and mechanisms of human curiosity.  


“The Record Player and the Sea: Art as a Way of Knowing”

Speaker: Walter Kitundu, MacArthur Fellow

Walter Kitundu will discuss past, present, and future projects, and how the search for artistic understanding shares much in common with scientific inquiry.  He asserts that “imagination is a form of investigation, and scientific practice can be a form of expression. Both fields rely on engaging with the unknown.”   Mr. Kitundu will share how his eclectic art practice is expanded through science and careful observation of the natural world.  Turntables were a central focus of his early creative work and provided a path into performance, composition, sculpture and installation, as well as education, bird-watching, photography, and biological field research. Mr. Kitundu is currently a visiting professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is extending his practice into large scale public art installations.


“Visual Literacy: The Art of Seeing”

Speaker: Lisa Passaglia Bauman, PhD

The ability to derive meaning from what we see is an essential skill in a culture saturated with images. And yet most people struggle to develop visual literacy skills because the language for talking about images is so foreign. Using great works from the history of art as well as common images from popular culture, Dr. Lisa Bauman will focus on how art communicates, how to analyze and interpret it, and how we can see it as a cultural product that reveals something about the society that produced it. She will begin with the visual elements, the vocabulary of art, and then discover how artists combine those elements using the principles of design. Unity, balance, scale and emphasis—help explain why some arrangements work better than others. And finally Dr. Bauman will address the anxiety underlying the whole art experience for some people: “what if I don’t get it?” by asking, and answering, six questions to make every encounter with art richer.

Concluding Remarks

Speaker:  David A. Smith, PhD

Finding the essence of each talk, relating them in interesting ways, and sharing relevant points is not an easy task, but one that Dr. Smith does with ease.  It is always enlightening, entertaining, and often intriguing to hear the connections he makes and the lessons he shares.