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Finding Moonshine: A Mathematician's Journey Through Symmetry Paperback – 14 May 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (14 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007214626
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007214624
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 121,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'If you don't experience a thrill of foreboding as du Sautoy ventures into this twilit territory, nothing in maths will be for you. Even if the thought of sitting down to a quintic equation makes you want to cry, it would still be hard to resist Moonshine's cocktail of anecdote, swashbuckling potted history and haphazard self-revelation. The moments of autobiographical intimacy bring the book to life…a joy.' Daily Telegraph

'Mesmerising…articulate, fluent, funny and personable, [du Sautoy] is also absolutely passionate about mathematics, with a burning desire to make the rest of us as excited as he is about its problems, its patterns and its beauty. He captures for us with brilliant vividness the excitement of the pursuit of a solution to a difficult problem.' Lisa Jardine, Sunday Times

'A fascinating and absorbing read.' Financial Times

'A marvellous account…these exasperating people with unkempt beards, untidy clothes, impossible manners and extraordinary obsessions, become, in this narrative, ultimately enviable.' Guardian

From the Back Cover

From fundamental particles to our ideas of art, from insect life to architecture and from the Alhambra to football, in ‘Finding Moonshine’, Marcus du Sautoy explores what is perhaps the most significant concept in mathematics: symmetry.

Following the eccentric individuals who have quested after symmetry through the ages, we are plunged into a very particular world: one of bearded professors and young geniuses killed in duels, of 196,883 dimensional shapes (known as the Monster) and of exhilarations unique to mathematical investigation. Grappling with some of the most complex ideas the human mind can encompass, ‘Finding Moonshine’ brilliantly combines mathematical insight with personal stories – and allows us to see the world just a little more as mathematicians do.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book on recommendation, because I was interested in a popular account of the Monster group. I've finally had to give up reading it, because it ultimately turns out to be a historical review of the figures involved in the long history of the mathematics of symmetry, with virtually no actual information about symmetry. All the mathematical examples are excessively verbose, making them largely impenetrable. In his attempt to "simplify" the mathematics, Marcus Du Sautoy has succeeded in removing enough information from the problems and solutions as to make them incomprehensible. At every turn, I felt that he was on the brink of giving me the information that I was looking for, only to have my hopes dashed at the start of the next section.

If you are interested in the characters in this story, this is a great book, but if you are interested in the mathematics, it's virtually worthless.
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Format: Hardcover
Histories of mathematics can be tedious but this book sparkles on every page: Du Sautoy provides a lively and compelling tour of the development of ideas about symmetry and engages us with the brilliance of the vision of some of the giants of mathematics. But what really lifts the book is the skilful way he weaves into the text a fascinating personal narrative about how he and other mathematicians work and think. The book not only provides insights into some important topics in mathematics, but also into what makes mathematicians tick. I was enthralled.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The kindle version doesn't include 78 illustrations (figures) that render parts of the book in penetrable and spoil the whole experience. I feel cheated. Sad because the writing is good and interesting. I was left disappointed. Be warned.
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Format: Paperback
This is the SAME book as Symmetry but published under a different title. I bought both and was underwhelmed to find that they were the same! I emailed the author but he didn't give a toss. If you buy one, buy the cheaper one!!
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Format: Paperback
The gift of being able to explain the byzantine twists of complex theory to the more mundane mind is rare, Cox, Fortey, Darwin, Dawkins, Hawking. du Sautoy achieves the incredible task in a book I could not bear to come to an end.

Finding Moonshine is ultimately about the search by mathematicians to prove the existence of a geometric shape known as the Monster. This shape only exists in 196,883-dimensional space, a concept way beyond the usual three we exist in, but we are not thrown in at the deep end. du Sautoy ushers us towards an understanding of this beast by a series of steps that reassured me and made me able to follow him, even if there was some rereading and consultation with my more mathematically minded husband.

We begin chronologically and geometrically with the basics, back to the ancient Greeks and the platonic solids. These are the five 3d shapes where each face is the same regular polygon and the same number of polygons meet at each corner / vertex: the tetrahedron (triangle based pyramid), cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron). I remember these fondly from primary school. With skill de Sautoy weaves together the history of mathematicians and theories with increasingly complex theories about the concept of symmetry.

Finding Moonshine is packed full of practical applications of symmetry, these give the brain a break from theory and enlightened me that symmetry is not just cerebral gymnastics. In fact it can be seen as an expression of the laws that underpin our universe and are so pleasing to the human sensibility.
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Format: Paperback
This book on research into mathematical symmetry is good at conveying the character of mathematicians who have been engaged in the research, and the excitement they can feel. Where it is much less good is at conveying a sense of the actual mathematics, and this is quite a big failing in a book of this kind. For readers who don't want that sense, it will be enjoyable; for others like me who would like to be given a greater understanding of the subject, it is frustrating.
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Format: Paperback
This was a bit dissapointing for a follow on from the Music of the primes...I didn't see the point really. It started ok but then...

Sorry Marcus. Now a second edition of the primes with a much better explanation of the zeta function (a full one if he could manage it) would be worth it. The TV series was poor and left me wanting more, and so did the book, and that silly spaceship he wore on the xmas lectures...thats what happens when you commercialise education!
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By Jet Lagged TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 6 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback
Contains a good and clear historical explanation of where Group Theory actually sprung from. The neat idea of Galois (Pity he got sucked into fighting a duel and losing his life over some broad).

And, since symmetry is being discussed, so the existence of the Monster Group must be mentioned.
Strange about the modular function having such a close connection to it. What is really going on here? Nobody seems to know.

See also the book on Simon Norton - "The Genius in my Basement". Norton was one of the co-discoverers of the Monster.
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