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Symmetry: A Journey into the Patterns of…

Symmetry: A Journey into the Patterns of Nature (2008)

by Marcus du Sautoy

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Symmetry has two points of focus. One is the symmetry in nature and its relationship to mathematics. Second is the history of mathematical symmetry and the people behind the exploration.

The mathematics is expressed in simple terms, the only equations are simple that anyone can recognize, a few diagrams, and the digits of large numbers. Much is in the descriptions of bizarre objects in muti-, as in more than 20, dimensional space. The author describes them in terms of their numbers of symmetry, no imagery is required.

The main issues with the book are it can be redundant and slow. I felt some of the historical stories on people should have been left out or shortened.

On the positive side, it flows well and is easy to read. It does a good job of tying different areas of math together, and it does mention by name a few more complex topics as he covers them. I think the book would have done better by providing more math, since that was the focus of the book, it feels like an important part was omitted.

If you have an interest in math, you will probably find the book of interest. Otherwise I'd pass it up. ( )
  Nodosaurus | Feb 28, 2014 |
I enjoyed this in the main. I have enjoyed Du Sautoy's TV programmes about maths and love his enthusiasm for his subject. I found this entertaining if a little challenging at times. ( )
  twosheds | Feb 26, 2014 |
Symmmetry: A Journey Into the Patterns of Nature shows a lot of potential. There simply aren't many books targeted to a lay audience exploring the complex concept of symmetry. But does Sautoy deliver a successful and accessible tome outlining symmetry and the nature of mathematical patterns?

Pros: Well designed cover; Interesting topic; Fusion of math & memoir

Cons: Condescending tone; Frequent redundancies; Lack of preface

Like most recent science and math books, Symmetry is divided into chapters with accurate and descriptive subheadings within each chapter. There are twelve chapters in all, each titled with a different month, representing the author's personal journey to turning 40 and beyond.

While this is a somewhat novel arrangement for a math book, what Symmetry lacks is a preface. A preface is much appreciated at the outset of a work of non-fiction. The preface typically serves to introduce the topic at hand, as well as to provide a helpful lesson to the reader regarding any technical terms and jargon necessary to the understand the remainder of the book.

Despite the lack of a preface, Sautoy does briefly define, or provide an illustration for, each of the higher level mathematical terms as they are discussed. However, even with this assistance from the author some concepts are just too advanced for a general popular readership.

One such concept is the idea of greater than three-dimensional objects and space. While this concept may indeed be too difficult for all of Symmetry's readers to grasp, Sautoy's condescending tone when discussing multi-dimensional objects is wholly unnecessary and made me want to put the book down and not pick it up again.

Another flaw impairing the overall readability of Symmetry: A Journey Into the Patterns of Nature is the repetitiveness of certain observations from Sautoy's mentors. While these observations are undoubtably important to Sautoy and to the concept at hand, Symmetry's audience should be given some credit. It is a rare reader that forgets what occured in Chapter 1 before completing Chapter 2, and likewise for Chapters 2 and 3.

Symmetry is also nearly entirely lacking in footnotes but it does have an endnotes and a futher reading section at its conclusion which could be helpful for higher-level math students doing research projects.

This book is only recommended for those with an advanced understanding of higher level mathematics and readers with a high degree of patience who can overlook a condescending tone and dull repetition. ( )
  ReadThisNotThat | Nov 11, 2010 |
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For Tomer, Magaly and Ina and my mathematical children.
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1*August: Endings and Beginnings -- Midday, 26 August, the Sinai Desert -- It's my 40th birthday. It's 40 degrees. I'm covered in factor 40 sun screen, hiding in the shade of a reed shack on one side of the Red Sea.
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British title: Finding Moonshine, US title: Symmetry
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060789409, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:08 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A mathematician draws on scientific findings about the role of symmetry in understanding the dynamic relationship between objects, exploring such topics as the theory of fundamental particles, the role of symmetry in evolutionary biology, and the discovery of an enormous dimensional space snowflake.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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