Why Beauty Is Truth: The History of Symmetry Hardcover – 3 May 2007
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"(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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I would recommend this book. Ian Stewart is great in explaining a very complex mathematical concepts behind symmetry and group theory. Read morePublished on 11 Jun. 2013 by carmela
This book is well written and very pleasant to read. I advise this book to every student in physics or mathematics. Excellent!Published on 10 April 2013 by Giancarlo Campagnoli
This book is very interesting and held my interest, although not always my comprehension, throughout the book. Read morePublished on 29 Mar. 2013 by Jonathan S.
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