Fearful Symmetry: The Search for Beauty in Modern Physics

Overview

"Fearful Symmetry tells the story of modern physics and contemporary physicists in a most understandable and vivid way. It makes the 'fearful' symmetry simple and accessible, and the burning tigers lively and human. An excellent rendition and an outstanding achievement."—T. D. Lee, Nobel Prize-winning physicist

"To a layman like myself, totally unversed in modern theoretical physics, Zee's book comes as an illumination. Once having grasped the idea of symmetry as an aesthetic and intellectual principle, I found ...

See more details below
Paperback (New Edition)
$20.08
BN.com price
(Save 30%)$28.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (10) from $12.83   
  • New (7) from $15.98   
  • Used (3) from $12.83   
Sending request ...

Overview

"Fearful Symmetry tells the story of modern physics and contemporary physicists in a most understandable and vivid way. It makes the 'fearful' symmetry simple and accessible, and the burning tigers lively and human. An excellent rendition and an outstanding achievement."—T. D. Lee, Nobel Prize-winning physicist

"To a layman like myself, totally unversed in modern theoretical physics, Zee's book comes as an illumination. Once having grasped the idea of symmetry as an aesthetic and intellectual principle, I found myself, under his guidance, contemplating aspects of the design of the universe of which I never had the faintest glimmer."—John Rupert Martin, Marquand Professor of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University

"A small gem we can see deeply into with small effort and great pleasure."—Robert Schrieffer, Nobel Prize-winning physicist

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

ISIS - James W. McAllister
[Zee] demonstrates effortless competence over a wide area of theoretical physics. He also displays great enthusiasm and excitement for his subject, which many readers will find infectious.
From the Publisher
"Zee's exposition of the intuitive use by modern theoretical physicists of the concept of symmetry . . . in order to fathom nature's laws is superb scientific reading."—Publishers Weekly

"[Zee] demonstrates effortless competence over a wide area of theoretical physics. He also displays great enthusiasm and excitement for his subject, which many readers will find infectious."—James W. McAllister, ISIS

ISIS
[Zee] demonstrates effortless competence over a wide area of theoretical physics. He also displays great enthusiasm and excitement for his subject, which many readers will find infectious.
— James W. McAllister
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691134826
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/30/2007
  • Series: Princeton Science Library Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 376
  • Sales rank: 1,395,403
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

A. Zee is professor of physics and a permanent member of the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His books include "Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell".

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Fearful Symmetry The Search for Beauty in Modern Physics
By A. Zee Princeton University Press
Copyright © 2007
Princeton University
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-13482-6


Foreword The notion of symmetry has manifestations that are widespread in human culture. Symmetry also exhibits itself in a great many features of the operation of the Natural world. It is a notion that is simple enough to be understood and made use of by a young child; yet it is subtle enough to be central to our deepest and most successful physical theories describing the inner workings of Nature. Symmetry is thus a concept that is simultaneously obvious and profound.

Symmetry has many areas of application. Some are basically practical, such as those made use of in engineering-for example, with the bilateral symmetry of most aeroplane designs or in the symmetry in bridge construction-or, at a more mundane level, in the satisfactory creation of furniture. But other uses of symmetry are more evidently purely aesthetic, and can be central to many artistic creations, where it may provide a key ingredient underlying the sublime beauty of various great works of art. Moreover, this is true over a considerable range of disciplines, such as in painting or sculpture, or in music or literature. In mathematics, the notion of symmetry is the starting point of vast areas of deep theory, providing much penetrating insight of enormous scope. In the science of crystallography it is crucial, as it is also in many aspects ofchemistry. It is evident to the eye that symmetry is also important to biological function. There is great symmetry to be found throughout the plant and animal kingdoms, and this symmetry can contribute in many different ways to the efficient functioning of an organism. Bilateral symmetry, for example, is almost universal among animals. Yet it is occasionally grossly violated, such as in the twisting spiral shape of a snail's shell. But with such a shell, we find that there emerges a deeper type of symmetry, not evident at first: a symmetry under rotational motion, provided that this is accompanied by uniform expansion or contraction.

It is in modern fundamental physics, though, that we find the most subtle interplay between symmetry and asymmetry, for, as twentieth-century physics has revealed, there is a special role for symmetry in Nature's basic forces that is both central and sometimes enigmatically violated. Some of the underlying ideas are quite simple to grasp, but others, distinctly sophisticated. However, I believe that this undoubted sophistication should not be held as a reason for denying the lay public an opportunity to access some of these ideas, which often exhibit a kind of sublime beauty. Yet, it is not so easy to present such ideas in a way accessible to a lay reader, while at the same time holding the reader's interest and conveying some nontrivial understanding. Tony Zee, however, achieves this in a masterful way in his classic, here reprinted, Fearful Symmetry: The Search for Beauty in Modern Physics.

Fundamental physics is genuinely difficult, and the crucial role of symmetry is often a subtle one. For this good reason it is not often satisfactorily explained to a lay audience at length or in significant depth. In the arts, on the other hand, it is usually not hard to produce accessible works fully extolling the use of various qualities of symmetry, often merely by use of a good picture, as is the case also in architecture and engineering. This seems to be true as well in biological descriptions and in books depicting the natural beauty of crystalline substances. There are even many popular works in which the symmetrical forms of pure geometry, or of other areas of pure mathematics, can be made very accessible even to the mathematically unsophisticated reader. But there is something especially hard to communicate about the roles of symmetry in basic physics, particularly because these roles are often very abstract and they frequently depend upon the highly nonintuitive and confusing fundamental principles of quantum mechanics. The demands of quantum physics are themselves not easy to comprehend. They are often subtle, and have a special importance to the workings of Nature at the deepest levels that human understanding has yet been able to penetrate. It is when the ideas of symmetry and quantum mechanics come together that we find the special subtleties that are crucial to our modern understanding of the basic forces of Nature.

All this serves to emphasize the difficulties that confronted Zee's task, and to enhance our admiration for his superb achievement. But there is one thing to his advantage that he was able to exploit: the fact that symmetry and beauty are closely linked. By emphasizing the beauty in the use of symmetry that lies behind our modern theories of the forces of Nature, rather than dwelling on the mathematical details, he is able to side-step most of the technicality and many of the deep remaining difficulties that presently confound further progress. This is a story that, indeed, has not reached its end, as it is still beset with enigmas and apparent inconsistencies. Of course, this makes it all the more fascinating to study the progress that has been made so far, and perhaps to entice more readers to enter, in a serious way, this wonderful world-a world that that they may not have considered before.

And for this, Tony Zee here serves as a superb guide!

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Fearful Symmetry by A. Zee
Copyright © 2007 by Princeton University. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents


Foreword     xi
Preface 1999     xv
Preface     xvii
Acknowledgments     xix
Symmetry and Design     1
In Search of Beauty     3
Symmetry and Simplicity     8
The Far Side of the Mirror     22
Einstein's Legacy     49
Marriage of Time and Space     51
A Happy Thought     76
Symmetry Dictates Design     95
Into the Limelight     101
Where the Action Is Not     103
The Lady and the Tyger     113
Learning to Read the Great Book     122
Symmetry Triumphs     133
To Know His Thoughts     151
The Eightfold Path in the Forest of the Night     153
The Revenge of Art     185
The Ultimate Design Problem     210
Unity of Forces     228
The Rise of Hubris     255
The Mind of the Creator     275
Afterword     285
Appendix to Chapter 9     297
Appendix to the Afterword     301
Notes     321
Index     345
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2005

    A wonderful read

    Anthony Zee is one of my favorite contemporary physics writers. His work 'Fearful Symmetry' shows how beautiful the framework of modern physics can be. Also gained from the text is a greater understanding of the phenomenon going on all around you. This text is wonderful for a nonindoctrinated scientist to get his feet wet on some of the unanswered questions in physics. Personally this book found me after graduating my Bachelors and helped form the questions that led to my doctoral career.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2004

    Marvelously easy to comprehend, and a delight to read

    I sought out 'Fearful Symmetry', after first coming accross and thoroughly enjoying Dr. Zee's later book, 'An Old Man's Toy - Gravity at work and play in an Einstein Universe', and was delighted to learn how the concepts of beauty and symmetry drive theoretical research. It became another treasured part of my library. Both have been of great interest to my son as well. Having been exposed to those two works placed him in a marvelous position with his Chemistry and Physics instructors. I very much look forward to getting around to both of his other books, 'Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell' and 'Swallowing Clouds'.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)