Why Beauty Is Truth: A History of Symmetry

Why Beauty Is Truth A History of Symmetry 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

  • Title: Why Beauty Is Truth: A History of Symmetry
  • Author: Ian Stewart
  • ISBN: 9780465082360
  • Page: 287
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 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 CAt 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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    About "Ian Stewart"

    1. Ian Stewart

      Ian Nicholas Stewart is an Emeritus Professor and Digital Media Fellow in the Mathematics Department at Warwick University, with special responsibility for public awareness of mathematics and science He is best known for his popular science writing on mathematical themes from the author s websiteLibrarian Note There is than one author in the GoodReads database with this name See other authors with similar names.

    179 thoughts on “Why Beauty Is Truth: A History of Symmetry”

    1. As advertised, Why Beauty Is Truth is a history of symmetry, briefly covering all of the usual suspects—the Babylonians, Euclid, Omar Khayyám, Cardano, Gauss, Lagrange, Abel, Galois, Lie, &c. up to modern group theory, then backtracking and going over Newton, Maxwell, Einstein, Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Wigner, Witten, &c. stumbling in the general direction of physical symmetries—with the usual variable amount of accuracy.It also contains a very tiny bit of mathematics, for which St [...]

    2. I would have enjoyed Why Beauty is Truth a lot more if I understood higher mathematics better. Stewart is an excellent writer, but I'm afraid the material is less approachable than he makes it out to be.On the other hand, the historical side is quite accessible and comprises numerous deftly-told and intriguing stories.The only criticism I would offer from a content standpoint is his dismissal of anything having to do with the so-called "fine tuning" arguments for the existence of God. More than [...]

    3. I am trying to work my way through some mathematical studies and thought this would be interesting. It was a nice but also maybe boring? I usually like reading the histories of math and was excited at the onset by the Babylonian character first introduced. But then the author almost seemed to apologize for his style, dismiss the character and hurry off to the next one. He then adopts a style of quickly getting you interested in the character and then dropping them off at the dock before you get [...]

    4. Not only is the content beautifully chosen and laid out, but the style of narration is natural and easy to follow. Many popular science books tend to get increasingly obscure and uninteresting after a few beginning chapters, but Why Beauty is Truth succeeds in keeping the reader engaged till the very end. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in mathematics and theoretical physics.

    5. A crash course in Mathematical history focusing on symmetry told by a mathematician with an actual sense of humor and an ability to make all the in depth historical tidbits very interesting. A must read for all geeks.

    6. Oculto en las entrañas de la Teoría de la Relatividad, de la Mecánica Cuántica, la Teoría de Cuerdas, inclusive dentro de la moderna Cosmología, reside un gran concepto: la simetría.La simetría ha sido por siglos un concepto básico para artistas, arquitectos y músicos, pero dentro de las Matemáticas fue hasta hace poco, una búsqueda recóndita y secreta. Sin embargo en el siglo XX, la simetría surge como una idea fundamental de la Física y la Cosmología. Why Beauty is Truth nos pl [...]

    7. I have read a lot of science in the past few years but not much math. This humbling reading experience helps me realize just how little I know.Here's a paragraph (page 168):The four structures that Killing refers to are the Lie algebras su(n), so(2n), so(2n+1), and sp(2n) corresponding to the families of groups SU(n), SO(2n), SO(2n+1), and SP(2n): the unitary groups, the orthogonal groups in spaces of even dimension, the orthogonal groups in spaces of odd dimension, and the symplectic groups in [...]

    8. While I don't feel I can claim anything close to truly grasping the concepts of mathematical symmetry after reading this book, I do feel I now understand the general structure of various forms of mathematics and how the built upon each other in order to reach the point we are at now. Specifically the point wherein the concepts of symmetry and group theory are being exploited by our most advanced scientists to understand our universe at a quantum level. This books starts at the beginning with the [...]

    9. 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. Being able to perform an operation on an 'object' and not change it got it. But when he starts talking about Lie groups, it all went a bit fuzzy for me. I know math (and science) books avoid like the plague actually having math in them, but this would have benefited from e.g. 'psuedocode' examples of w [...]

    10. Хотел прочитать лёгкую книгу о красоте, а вышло про живущее в 11-мерном пространстве суперсимметричное обобщение эйнштейновской теории гравитации.

    11. This book reads more like an account of history rather than a documentation of the various symmetries in science and math. Certainly the author introduces only mathematicians and scientists relevant to the affair but he seems to spend more time on their lives than he spends on lucid and approachable descriptions of “symmetries”. Even as someone with a background in higher-level mathematics, I found his attempts to straddle both approachability and avoid over-simplification to be unsuccessful [...]

    12. Ian Stewart writes wonderful books about mathematics (I have yet to have the pleasure to read his textbooks, and doubt I could understand his papers). This is the most difficult book of his that I have read, but mostly because it is impossible to discuss the importance of symmetry without mentioning the important discoveries, which are mostly highly technical. While he does an excellent job breaking these down so they are (somewhat) understandable without sacrificing their meaning, he cannot avo [...]

    13. I really enjoyed the first half of this book. Ian Stewart is great at telling entertaining stories and getting me interested in mathematics, even without bringing up explicit equations or going too in depth. He gives the general ideas, just enough so you understand the concept, without going over our heads. And he's good at relating them to real world problems and examples, too.During the second half of the book, though, the concepts quickly become more and more difficult to understand, even wit [...]

    14. While I enjoyed parts of this book, overall I was disappointed. I'm not a mathmatician, but I am well-educated and the jargon (and the formulas without explaining them) used by the author really created a barrier. There were MANY times when I would feel like I was finally getting what the author was writing only to miss out completely on the point due to the jargon used in the conclusion of an anecdote. In addition, the way the author organized his writing is not conducive to understanding, in m [...]

    15. This was a frustrating read. Parts in the first half of the book were insightful and very enjoyable. Unfortunately, large portions of the second half were simply beyond my intellectual firepower. The frustrating part was watching Stewart meander off into the postmodern mathematical wonderland of nonsense. Let me provide a paragraph typical of the last 100 pages: "The exceptional group G2 also makes an appearance in the latest twist to the story, which Witten calls M-theory. The "M," he says, sta [...]

    16. A very interesting history of the development of group theory and it's relationship to modern physics. This is not a mathematical history, but the story of the lives and ideas of the mathematicians and physicists that developed group theory. Those versed in mathematics might be frustrated by the lack of math, but a book that took the middle way between mathematical rigor and interesting history would have a very small audience. There are a couple of small errors in the book. Stewart refers to Ei [...]

    17. Um livro fantástico sobre alguns conceitos matemáticos que foram a base da física moderna. Inicialmente inventados por loucos matemáticos que não sabiam para o que isso serviria, ou mesmo se algum dia suas invenções serviriam. Algumas partes românticas com matemáticos envolvidos em guerras e revoluções, disputas de amores e morte em duelos. Outras partes com o suspense de será que vai conseguir resolver? O livro tem alguns momentos muito difíceis onde explica as teorias da física q [...]

    18. I am not sure how well this would explain the scientific aspects of symmetry to folks who haven't had prior exposure, but for me it was a good overview. I will probably get a copy so I can reread parts that were not quite clear the first time - it is definitely a book that will make more sense having read it once. I was disappointed that it only covered math and physics, and didn't get into the implications of symmetry on chemistry (which is where I first encountered it). But I didn't know most [...]

    19. A very good popularization book on the historical development of symmetry in mathematics and its applications in physics (specially in the last chapters). It is an easy and pleasant reading, with interesting and amusing short biographies of the mathematicians. The use of analogies is neatly done. I have enjoyed more the first half or so of the book than the latter part (on physics applications), maybe because the latter was well-known to me, so I have skipped a few of those parts. The book ends [...]

    20. I like it much better than another popular science book on the concept of symmetries "Symmetry and monsters".The story is presented much more elegantly and connections between various chapters are shown more properly. Ian presents nice arguments in favour of why mathematicians pursue mathematical beauty and why many a time (but not always) such theories turn out to be the perfect representation of truth in physics. Inspite of having these aesthetic notions about the truth, he is still being real [...]

    21. The major portion of this book chronicles the lives of some of the luminaries in Mathematics. The author and mathematician, Ian Stewart in the book 'why beauty is truth', made an attempt to present the ideas of symmetry and how it has sprung up from group theory invented by Galois, however, the book stands prosaic and lackluster. I was of the opinion that this book lays some interesting insights into group theory liaison with symmetry. To my dismay, this book focussed mainly on the mathematical [...]

    22. Though I enjoyed this book, I couldn't help thinking that those untrained in higher mathematics (as I happen to be) wouldn't be able to follow much of the second half of the book. Whereas in the first half Stewart spends a lot of time explaining simple things like what two raised to the third power means, it seemed the more complicated the math got the less time he spends attempting to explain it.

    23. This book really helped me view mathematics in a new light. Seeing it not as a painful reminder of school but as way to further understanding of our reality. The text covers an enormous range of topics beginning with the Babylonian number system and ending with string theory and the applications of octonions. Not only does this book describe mathematical theories their evolution, but it also goes into the biographical details of the mathematicians who made these discoveries.

    24. So much to think about in this book. But I gotta admit, higher math is flat over my head, so I only got a vague grasp of oh, two-thirds of the book. But the premise--that the universe is inexplicably described by very elegant mathematical formulae--was so fascinating that I slogged through the math.

    25. Decent history of mathematics and symmetry. A lot of layman's physics books (Brian Greene, Michio Kaku, etc) don't spend much time explaining the kind of symmetry they're talking about regarding quantum physics, but this book explains it well. I do think it ended too abruptly, not speculating much about the future.

    26. Another great maths book for the educated layman by Ian Stewart. It wasn't afraid to show equations - not to teach them to the reader but to get a feeling for how they look and what shape they are.The last couple of chapters gave an interesting overview of how the physics Superstring theories use the mathematics of symmetry groups in their operation.

    27. Un libro bonito de leer. La matemática llega a ser compleja y algunas cosas excedieron mi dominio pero, al final, creo que el mensaje me llegó integro. Siempre me ha sorprendido la capacidad del cerebro humano de trascender a las 4 modestas dimensioncitas a las que nos tienen limitados nuestras capacidades sensitivas.

    28. A fascinating look at various mathematicians in their pursuit of mathematical symmetry. Unfortunately for me, it became increasingly technical as the math moved towards quantum physics, and I lost the narrative thread through my own mathematical naiveté. But if you like math and challenges, definitely worth giving it a try!

    29. I thought this would be an easier read, but it turned out to be a bit over my head. Probably a much better book if you're more into math and physics than I am. If you're looking for an easy read of a science or math book, this isn't it.

    30. Amazing book! You will understand as much as you understand in math. For the concepts that you do not understand, you will get a rough estimate of what they are talking about. Still if you do not understand much the implications and history is fascinating!!!

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