Symmetry: A Journey into the Patterns of Nature

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9780060789404: Symmetry: A Journey into the Patterns of Nature

Symmetry is all around us. Our eyes and minds are drawn to symmetrical objects, from the pyramid to the pentagon. Of fundamental significance to the way we interpret the world, this unique, pervasive phenomenon indicates a dynamic relationship between objects. In chemistry and physics, the concept of symmetry explains the structure of crystals or the theory of fundamental particles; in evolutionary biology, the natural world exploits symmetry in the fight for survival; and symmetry—and the breaking of it—is central to ideas in art, architecture, and music.

Combining a rich historical narrative with his own personal journey as a mathematician, Marcus du Sautoy takes a unique look into the mathematical mind as he explores deep conjectures about symmetry and brings us face-to-face with the oddball mathematicians, both past and present, who have battled to understand symmetry's elusive qualities. He explores what is perhaps the most exciting discovery to date—the summit of mathematicians' mastery in the field—the Monster, a huge snowflake that exists in 196,883-dimensional space with more symmetries than there are atoms in the sun.

What is it like to solve an ancient mathematical problem in a flash of inspiration? What is it like to be shown, ten minutes later, that you've made a mistake? What is it like to see the world in mathematical terms, and what can that tell us about life itself? In Symmetry, Marcus du Sautoy investigates these questions and shows mathematical novices what it feels like to grapple with some of the most complex ideas the human mind can comprehend.

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About the Author:

Marcus du Sautoy is a professor of mathematics and the Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He is a frequent contributor on mathematics to The Times, The Guardian, and the BBC, and he lives in London.

From Publishers Weekly:

When most of us think of symmetry, we think of looking into a mirror or playing patty-cake with a child. As Oxford don du Sautoy (The Music of the Primes) tells readers, this is only the tip of the triangle in the mathematical realms of symmetry, where symmetrical objects exist in dimensions far beyond our ability to imagine. The author takes readers gently by the hand and leads them elegantly through some steep and rocky terrain as he explains the various kinds of symmetry and the objects they swirl around. Du Sautoy explains how this twirling world of geometric figures has strange but marvelous connections to number theory, and how the ultimate symmetrical object, nicknamed the Monster, is related to string theory. This book is also a memoir in which du Sautoy describes a mathematician's life and how one makes a discovery in these strange lands. He also blends in minibiographies of famous figures like Galois, who played significant roles in this field. This is mainly for science buffs, but fans of scientific biographies will also find it appealing. B&w illus. (Mar.)
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