Symmetry and the Monster: One of the greatest quests of mathematics

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OUP Oxford, May 18, 2006 - Science - 272 pages
3 Reviews
Imagine a giant snowflake in 196,884 dimensions... This is the story of a mathematical quest that began two hundred years ago in revolutionary France, led to the biggest collaboration ever between mathematicians across the world, and revealed the 'Monster' - not monstrous at all, but a structure of exquisite beauty and complexity. Told here for the first time in accessible prose, it is a story that involves brilliant yet tragic characters, curious number 'coincidences' that led to breakthroughs in the mathematics of symmetry, and strange crystals that reach into many dimensions. And it is a story that is not yet over, for we have yet to understand the deep significance of the Monster - and its tantalizing hints of connections with the physical structure of spacetime. Once we understand the full nature of the Monster, we may well have revealed a whole new and deeper understanding of the nature of our Universe.

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User Review  - fpagan - LibraryThing

The story of the effort to classify all the finite simple groups, including the ~1980 nailing-down of the "monster" group whose size is the 54-digit number with prime factorization 2^46 ˇ 3^20 ˇ 5^9 ... Read full review

Symmetry and the Monster

User Review  - dzankudzanku -

Easy reading. Very good. I wish it had been a bit more technical and the authors use of the word atoms out of context was upsetting. There was a typo in one of the appendices but other than that it was a fascinating book. I wish I could find others on the same topic but a little more technical. Read full review


1Theaetetuss Icosahedron
Death of a Genius
3Irrational Solutions
5Sophus Lie
6Lie Groups and Physics
7Going Finite
13Fischers Monsters
14The Atlas
15A Monstrous Mystery
Appendix 1The Golden Section
Appendix 2The Witt Design

8After the War
9The Man from Uccle
10The Big Theorem
11Pandoras Box
12The Leech Lattice
Appendix 3The Leech Lattice
Appendix 4The 26 Exceptions

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About the author (2006)

Mark Ronan is a Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and was Visiting Professor of Mathematics at University College London, having held previous academic positions in Berlin, in Braunschweig, and in Birmingham where he was Mason Professor of Mathematics in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In his early career he worked on the fringes of the Classification program and knew personally all the main people involved in the modern part of this story. His work is now on geometric structures exhibiting symmetry, on which he has written numerous research papers and a textbook published by Academic Press in 1989. Besides mathematics, Mark reads Babylonian cuneiform and has a great love for music. He has acted in more than a dozen operas at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and danced in The Nutcracker.

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