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The Equation That Couldn't Be Solved: How Mathematical Genius Discovered the Language of Symmetry Paperback – 9 Mar 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Souvenir Press Ltd; New Ed edition (9 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0285637894
  • ISBN-13: 978-0285637894
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 2.8 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 240,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

His book takes on something of the form of a historical detective story as he digs into the events surrounding Galois s death... A fine contribution to mathematical literature. --'Financial Times'

A lively addition to the small number of popular accounts of these climatic developments in mathematics. His tale is many-stranded. --'Times Higher Education Supplement'

Livio offers a heartbreakingly potted biography of Galois, whom he dubs the Lord Byron of mathematics ... an intellectual journey that is as circuitous as it is vertiginous... The Equation That Couldn t Be Solved excitingly exhibits the scope and reach of Livio s wide-ranging interdisciplinary curiosity. --'Jewish Chronicle'

'Leading Edge' (Radio 4)

"A look at brilliant figures who changed the way we approach maths."

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Serghiou Const on 27 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
Mario Livio is a charming author. His writing style is simple, elegant, erudite, and alternatingly lyrical and witty and on occasions insightful.

The author traces the evolution to the solutions of equations from the linear in Babylonians, to the quadratic in the Egyptians and the Arabs to the cubic and the quartic in Renaissance. And then there was an impasse to the solution of the quintic -the equation that couldn't be solved - which persisted for centuries until the early 19th century. Then two young and tragic mathematical geniuses whose lives ended prematurely in their twenties in the case of Galois at exactly twenty following a duel, proved that the quintic could not be solved using an algebraic formula. The young geniuses were the Norwegian Niels Henrik Abel and the Frenchman Evariste Galois. In their quest for a solution they developed group theory -the language of symmetry - which not only aided in the solution of quintic equations but proved extremely fertile in Mathematics and had an enormous impact in Physics including attempts for the development of the Grand Unification Theory and relevant superstring theories and attendant supersymmetries.

I shall conclude by drawing attention to the ubiquity of Symmetry from the music of Bach to selecting our mates.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By tiger on 1 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best books I've read about mathematics. It serves as a good history of algebra and a prelude to Galois theory. I read it before I did a course on Galois theory and knowing the history behind it definitely enhanced my experience of it. Anyone can enjoy this book no matter what their level and I'd also recommend Mario Livio's other book on the Golden Ratio.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By P. Fogarty on 2 May 2010
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed reading this book. It takes you all over the place, and it goes into incredible detail about the lives of different mathematicians and how they ended up. The author closely follows the development of mathematical theorems and how one person picks up the lead from the next. As a distinctly non-mathematician, I did occasionally get a little lost with the numbers.

However as Mario Livio is such an amazing writer, just as you think, I really am lost here, the book would take a turn in a completely direction and again you would feel you fully understood it for a while.

It is the sort of book that will provide the more mathematically gifted with endless facts and figures to amaze and amuse their friends. My most funny memory was the fact that men are always attracted to the most symmetrical women. Women find the smell of the most symmetrical attractive only at ovulation and the most symmetrical men themselves turn out to be the least reliable, commitment phobic amongst us, so it is not even all plain sailing for them!

I think that this would be a great gift for anyone looking for something to give the mature student, who has gained lots of background knowledge, and just needs a little boost in their understanding.
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By Peter Van Eetvelt on 19 April 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent
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