Teen Catches Old Math Error at Boston Museum

It's finally fixed
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2015 2:33 PM CDT
Joseph Rosenfeld poses for a photo at John Handley High School in Winchester, Va.   (Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star via AP)
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(Newser) – People have been visiting the Mathematica exhibit at Boston's Museum of Science for more than twice as long as Joseph Rosenfeld has been alive. But it wasn't until the 15-year-old Virginia resident paid a visit that its math error was fixed, reports Boston.com. The teen noticed that the exhibit's equation for the "golden ratio" was off. "There was a minus sign instead of a plus sign three times," he tells MyFox Boston. He brought it to the attention of the museum, and soon received a letter of thanks. "They had the text big but the equation small, so I guess it's pretty easy for your eyes to skim over," says the teen, who hopes to go to MIT. He described the exhibit as "pretty cluttered" and speculated that most visitors wouldn't pause to read the entire plaque that featured the golden ratio.

The exhibit—the work of Charles and Ray Eames—has been in place since 1981, but the equation is now correct for the first time. Or, more correct. In a statement released yesterday, the museum noted the way it presented "the Golden Ratio in [the] exhibit is in fact the less common—but no less accurate—way to present it." Still, it was able to make the change, something the museum's exhibit content developer wasn't sure they could do at first. Because the exhibit itself is "considered an artifact ... decisions about everything in the exhibition requires both Curatorial and Content Development consent (and most things can’t be changed at all)." The museum has invited Joseph back for its Science Behind Pixar exhibit. (Read about a math problem that puzzled the world.)

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