Why Beauty Is Truth: The History of Symmetry

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Basic Books, Aug 2, 2007 - Science - 304 pages
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At the heart of relativity theory, quantum mechanics, string theory, and much of modern cosmology lies one concept: symmetry. In Why Beauty Is Truth, world-famous 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 dimensions-groups 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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User Review  - dcunning11235 - LibraryThing

This 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 - LibraryThing

The author messed up. He frets aloud about giving us lay-readers 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

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About the author (2007)

Ian Stewart is emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Warwick. His recent books include Calculating the Cosmos, Significant Figures, In Pursuit of the Unknown, and Professor Stewart's Hoard of Mathematical Treasures. He is a fellow of the Royal Society. He lives in Coventry, UK.

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