Hypocritical science

13.01.2010 | Serhiy Petukhov

Scientists have ascertained why some people are likeable at first glance while others are not

Indeed, why are some people liked at first glance and others take time getting used to? In general, any theory on this subject can be shot down by the categorical axiom No accounting for tastes! But the issue does not disappear. The importance of this issue is proven by the fact that every time scientists try to check harmony using algebra, this becomes the number one topic of discussion for billions of people around the planet without exaggeration

Photo: Shutterstock


Such was the case the last time a group of scholars at the University of California in La Jolla and the University of Toronto tried to determine the proportions of the human face that would satisfy all.

The experimental procedure was simple. The researchers took digital photos of female faces and removed the hair, ears and neck. They left only the face with the eyes, nose and mouth. Then using a computer they changed the distance between the eyes, the line between the eyes and mouth line and the length and width of the face. The result was a series of faces from amongst which university students were asked to choose the most attractive one.

Regardless of the proportions of the oval (elongated or round face), almost all respondents chose the face on which the distance from the eyes to the mouth was 36% of the length of the face and the distance between the pupils of the eyes was 46% of the width of the face.

Though the study was published in the low-circulation specialized scientific journal Vision Research, all news agencies around the world reported about it. And as it often happens, journalists claimed that the scientists achieved something they did not. Namely, scientists allegedly discovered a formula for female beauty. People immediately began trying this formula on themselves and their idols. The outrage of citizens knew no bounds. Somebody wrote on an American chat forum: What the hell kind of science is this if even Angelina Jolie does not fit into this beauty formula?

Meanwhile, the scientists did not even entertain the idea of exploring the secret of a womans beauty. They were merely studying the attractiveness of the human face. That is, they attempted to construct a face that incited minimal negative emotions in others.

The faces used in the experiment were female, though a male face could been used to achieve the same results. However, without the hair, neck and ears, the face practically loses its sexual identity. By the way, both female and male students participated in the experiment. It is not likely that all the girls were lesbians, despite the achievements of western political correctness.

Venus on stilettos

The ideal proportions of the human body were known even in the times of Euclid and were finally approved in the scientific works of Leonardo da Vinci titled the divine or golden cross sections. The human body corresponds to this section, if the ratio of its height to the length of the lower body (from the navel and below) is equal to the irrational number 1.6180339887 The trick is that if this proportion is observed, then the ratio of the lower body to the top (from the navel to the crown of the head) is exactly the same number 1.6180339887...

Photo: Shutterstock

Ancient mathematicians arrived at this number using various arithmetic, algebraic and trigonometric actions. It turned out to be so mystical that people desperately wanted to correspond to this number in some way. As a result, all antique sculptures precisely correspond to the golden section.

Art of the Renaissance Era continued this tradition, which is so deeply entrenched in academic art that it became a kind of an axiom for any sculptor working on an order from the state. Even Soviet leaders, who in real life had short legs, did not differ in proportions of the body from the Apollo of Belvedere in their monuments. This can be easily seen by measuring the photo of the statue of Lenin in Kyiv. The ratio of Lenins height to the distance between the bottom button of his waistcoat and the soles of his shoes is 1.6180339887...

In the middle of the 19th century, German scientists audited the golden section and by measuring thousands of people were convinced that the human body indeed approximately corresponds to it. For men, this figure equals to 1.625 on average, as their legs are slightly longer than the Apollo of Belvedere. For women this number is 1.6 as their legs are slightly shorter than those of the Venus de Milo. So, ladies high heels should once again confirm that the Golden Section is not just the magic of numbers, but the most attractive proportion of the human body to the human eye.

Da Vincis grin

Now, if we go back to the proportions of the human face, we see that the California-Toronto research team was using reverse psychology. Scientists were not looking for a match of facial features in some predefined magic numbers, but instead measured the most beautiful faces to arrive at these numbers. Scientists could even try to discover their own golden section of the human face, if not for one circumstance.

When the calculated ratio 0.36/0.46 was applied to the faces of famous women, it became clear that none of the worlds beauties from this era or the past match these standards. Not Nefertiti (47% and 47%), nor Venus de Milo (40% and 50%), nor Marilyn Monroe (50% and 47%), nor Elizabeth Taylor (46% and 50%), nor Catherine Deneuve (47% and 50%), nor Penelope Cruz (44% and 50%) nor Angelina Jolie (35% and 48%) matched the standard. Only one famous woman corresponded to these proportions the portrait of Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci (36% and 46%).

Everyone knows that the Mona Lisa is an icon of femininity and charm. And only when it became possible to digitize a picture and combine it with a self-portrait of Leonardo was it discovered that the standard of femininity is not a woman, but a bad joke that the artist painted himself and gave it a womans face.

But whomever the artist depicted in the guise of the wife of the Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, it is clear that the golden section of the human face, which scientists calculated at the end of 2009, was known to Leonardo back in 1503, when he painted the Mona Lisa.

So what?, you may ask. The fact is that the golden section of the body was described in detail in the scientific works by Da Vinci based on mathematical calculations, but there was not a word about the golden section of the face. He simply drew it and created another riddle for the descendants.

Photo: Shutterstock

We should be ashamed that it took them more than 400 years to find out purely by a chance what is so attractive in the mysterious smile of Mona Lisa. In fact, it is not the smile, rather the distance between the pupils of the eyes, which is 46% of the width of the face and the distance between the eyes and lips is 36% of the length of the face.

Dont rush to measure the faces of Ukraines presidential candidates. The study of the American and Canadian scientists was published recently before Christmas, when all computer changes in their pre-election faces on outdoor advertising posters have already been made and approved. So, at least in terms of this factor all candidates had equal starting conditions. None of the faces of the 18 candidates correspond to golden section.

Printable version
comments powered by Disqus