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Why Beauty Is Truth: The History of Symmetry Hardcover – 3 May 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (3 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046508236X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465082360
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.8 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 828,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"(t)he pick of this year's maths books. Stewart, a veteran professor and populariser, uses a historical approach to show the significance of symmetry, one of the most powerful concepts in his field. Few equations, plenty of anecdotes." --Financial Times - Science Books of the Year

"Stewart is a highly gifted communicator, able not only to explain the motivation of mathematicians down the centuries but to elucidate the resulting mathematics with both clarity and style. Inspirational." --Times Educational Supplement

"Stewart, long a class act in popular maths, does not shy from presenting equations, illuminating them with imagistic explanations and sympathetic character sketches of heroes past and present". --The Guardian

About the Author

Ian Stewart is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick and Director of its Mathematics Awareness Centre. His many books include Does God Play Dice?, Nature's Numbers, Flatterland, and Letters to a Young Mathematician. His writing has appeared in many publications, including New Scientist, and Prospect, and he lives in Coventry.


Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I had bought this being interested in maths many years ago in particular the concept of 'Beauty' in nature and art and how that correlated to symmetry and maths. I had hoped it would touch on fractals and logorithmic sequences and how objects such as seashells and cabbages grow in these formations. Sadly none of this was touched on and I'm not what I would call heavily into advanced mathematics.

However I did persevere and read the entire book although far from understanding the concepts in it. I very much enjoyed the humour and the history surrounding how mathmatical concepts were discovered. It reminded me very much of Bill Bryson's writting and not that of a stale Maths book at all. The book gets heavier towards the end when it starts talking of Quantum maths where it pretty much lost me completely.

If you are interested in Mathmatical concepts and discoveries this is a very entertaining and informative read but for me the cover was rather misleading. I would be interested to hear a review by a Maths scholar.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Really enjoyed it the first 3/4 of the book, but then, necessarily given the material, it becomes a little more technical towards the end and I found it lost a bit of the readability in the end, and made the last few chapter a little bit of an uphill slog. Would suit anyone with something more than a passing interest in high level mathematics and/or physics.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has many good points, and some drawbacks. I think my own lack of mathematical knowledge held me back from fully appreciating it. (I got A in O level maths in 1981. I enjoyed maths at school, and felt I was getting to the interesting bits when I was forced towards physics chemistry and biology for A levels- looking back I wish I had the chance to do all four subjects)

The good points are that is well written with a clear narrative showing how our mathematical thinking has developed over time. It shows well how seemingly abstract problems lead on to many insights that may be interesting of themselves (pure maths) or may help solve practical problems. (applied maths) What seems like purely abstract mathematics may later turn out to be the route to new applied knowledge. The "unreasonable effectiveness" of mathematics is shown in many examples throughout the book. The discussion of the relationship between truth and beauty is well nuanced, and it seems likely that truth will be beautiful, and that a current "ugly" or "messy" formulation is one awaiting its simplification. At school I was just beginning to get the idea that graphs, coordinates, geometry, equations and matrices were all ways of expressing the same idea in different formats. This book shows how these relationships come about, and evolve out from one another.

The drawbacks of the book for me was that the final 100 pages largely lost me. I got certain headline points, but I did not understand the ideas behind group theory, Lie groups, Hamilton's work, Killing's work. I think this is a reflection of my ignorance, not the author's writing.

My feeling about this book is that it would be a great read for someone studying maths at A level or university and wanting to get an idea of how maths has developed and where it is going. It would whet the appetite and encourage their studies.
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By Rose on 16 Nov. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I started to read this book and realized that it is too advanced for me at the moment. I have retired now and am looking for stimulating reading. I realize that I have to start on much simpler concepts first. Will return to the book later on!
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Format: Paperback
What more can I say?

Ian Stewart takes us on a journey through group theory to places you probably never considered, but in a completely fun and accessible manner. The historical tone of the book works really well, this book has inspired me to study galois theory in far greater depth.

A MUST for anybody with an interest in mathematics.
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