"What is a supermodel?" People sometimes ask me. It has a few definitions and sometimes people argue over them, much the way Heidi Klum and Elle MacPherson fight over who is called "The Body." *

But if you're reading this column, your definition of a 'supermodel' is an aspect of complexity science that incorporates multiple variables to try and spit out the best solution.

Ha Ha Ha.

Okay, okay, supermodels can also be really hot chicks blessed with the combination of low self-esteem and shockingly loose morals that allow them to easily be tricked into deviant sex. Just this once we get to discuss both. And by both, I mean just the hot chicks.

So what makes a supermodel super? Like many important things in life, we can look back in time and see if history gives us an answer that saves us some effort today.

For centuries mathematicans have been intrigued by the "Golden Ratio" because it appears so often in geometry. Is a "golden ratio" something German eurotrash does because they are bored with their sex lives? No, it is a ratio that is the midpoint between asymmetry and symmetry. Defined it is when "the whole is to the larger as the larger is to the smaller".In numerical terms, it is 1.618.

Leonardo Da Vinci, who wrote this blog somewhere around 1500 AD, was the first to use the term golden ratio but in later years American mathematician Mark Barr used the Greek letter Φ (phi) to represent it and that is common today.Stairways, buildings, paper sizes and lots of other things use Φ in their designs because it is inherently pleasing to us. In music, the octave, fifth, and major and minor sixths are ratios of consecutive numbers of the Fibonacci sequence, making them the closest low integer ratios to the golden ratio. This knowledge of the golden ratio is why, when people ask me how I play music so well, I am always able to respond, "Because I am a scientist."  Music is math people. For the definitive work on this concept go and buy ( do not rent ) Young Einstein. The soundtrack rules my face too.

So how does it relate to supermodels?It turns out that the golden ratio in faces may decide what we like too.  This study at the University of Regensburg examined the role of the golden ratio in our perception of beauty. Their tests basically created mirror images along vertical axes, which means perfect symmetry, but that was really their control data. Obviously mirroring the left or right half of a face leads to perfect symmetry but doesn't make someone attractive. They also used more advanced morphing techniques to try and determine what about the golden ratio makes us view some people as more attractive and not others.

Is it conclusive? No, some people like more irregularity than others. I like quirky noses, for example, but Lady Scientist has a perfectly shaped head and that is appealling also.Here is a sample problem using the golden ratio. Look at the picture below and then tell us all which of these mathematical constructs is the best science.


*I don't read Time but Elle says they anointed her that in 1986. Heidi was the first time I ever heard it used about anyone, even if I never thought she was all that great. So given a choice I would go with Elle but, if she was called that first, it didn't stick, since even a guy who writes a column called Science And Supermodels didn't know she had it.