Why Beauty Is Truth: The History of SymmetryAt the heart of relativity theory, quantum mechanics, string theory, and much of modern cosmology lies one concept: symmetry. In Why Beauty Is Truth, worldfamous mathematician Ian Stewart narrates the history of the emergence of this remarkable area of study. Stewart introduces us to such characters as the Renaissance Italian genius, rogue, scholar, and gambler Girolamo Cardano, who stole the modern method of solving cubic equations and published it in the first important book on algebra, and the young revolutionary Evariste Galois, who refashioned the whole of mathematics and founded the field of group theory only to die in a pointless duel over a woman before his work was published. Stewart also explores the strange numerology of real mathematics, in which particular numbers have unique and unpredictable properties related to symmetry. He shows how Wilhelm Killing discovered “Lie groups” with 14, 52, 78, 133, and 248 dimensionsgroups whose very existence is a profound puzzle. Finally, Stewart describes the world beyond superstrings: the “octonionic” symmetries that may explain the very existence of the universe. 
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LibraryThing Review
User Review  dcunning11235  LibraryThingThis was, as advertised, a history of symmetry; I feel that I did not get a good understanding for what exactly symmetry is, in a more advanced sense, however, which is partially what I was after ... Read full review
LibraryThing Review
User Review  Cheryl_in_CC_NV  LibraryThingThe author messed up. He frets aloud about giving us layreaders too much math, and still apparently didn't get a layperson to edit it for him. He avoids giving us equations, choosing instead to ... Read full review
Contents
1  
2 The Household Name 17
 17 
3 The Persian Poet 33
 33 
4 The Gambling Scholar 45
 45 
5 The Cunning Fox 63
 63 
6 The Frustrated Doctor and the Sickly Genius 75
 75 
7 The Luckless Revolutionary 97
 97 
8 The Mediocre Engineer and the Transcendent Professor 125
 125 
11 The Clerk from the Patent Office 173
 173 
12 A Quantum Quintet 199
 199 
13 The FiveDimensional Man 221
 221 
14 The Political Journalist 243
 243 
15 A Muddle of Mathematicians 259
 259 
16 Seekers after Truth and Beauty 275
 275 
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Common terms and phrases
Abel aether Albert angle atom Babylonian beauty became calculations called Cardano circle complex numbers construction cubic decimal dimensions Dirac discovered discovery Einstein electromagnetic electron Euclid Euclidean exactly exceptional Lie groups exist father Fermat primes field force formula fundamental Galois Galois’s Gamesh Gauss geometry gravity Greek group theory Hamilton Heisenberg idea Killing’s known Lagrange later Lie algebras light look mathe mathematicians mathematics matics Maxwell’s equations method moving multiplication negative numbers Newton Niels normed division algebra number system octonions particles permutations physicists physics Planck plane polygons problem proof proton proved quadratic quantum theory quarks quartic quaternions quintic quintic equation radicals real numbers relativity rotation Ruffini sack simple Lie algebras solution solve space spacetime spin square root string theory structure subgroup superstrings supersymmetry symbols symmetry group Tartaglia tells theorem Theory of Everything thing tion transformations triangle trisect turned universe waves Wigner wrote
Popular passages
Page v  O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede Of marble men and maidens overwrought, With forest branches and the trodden weed; Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! When old age shall this generation waste, Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty," — that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.