Fearful Symmetry: Is God a Geometer?

Fearful Symmetry: Is God a Geometer?

by Ian Stewart, Martin Golubitsky
     
 

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This fascinating study explores a fundamental paradox behind the patterns of the natural world, in which symmetrical causes lead to asymmetrical effects. Lesser and greater patterns—the structure of subatomic particles, a tiger's stripes, the shapes of clouds, and the vibrations of the stars—are produced by broken symmetry. This accessible exploration

Overview


This fascinating study explores a fundamental paradox behind the patterns of the natural world, in which symmetrical causes lead to asymmetrical effects. Lesser and greater patterns—the structure of subatomic particles, a tiger's stripes, the shapes of clouds, and the vibrations of the stars—are produced by broken symmetry. This accessible exploration of the physical and biological world employs the mathematical concepts of symmetry to consider the deepest questions of modern physics.
An active popularizer of mathematics, Ian Stewart is a university professor and former columnist for Scientific American's "Mathematical Games" column. Martin Golubitsky is Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the Ohio State University, where he serves as Director of the Mathematical Biosciences Institute. Both authors share an interest in the application of new mathematical ideas to scientific problems. More than 120 figures illustrate their illuminating survey of the interaction of symmetry with dynamics and the mathematical unity of nature's patterns.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This book's central theme involves two remarkably nonintuitive facts. First, a completely symmetric plane looks the same at every point and from every angle. We find this uninteresting and pay it no heed. Thus, what we detect as symmetry is, in fact, those symmetries that remain after the greater symmetry has been broken. Second, the study of symmetry is really the study of groups of transformations. Stewart ( Does God Play Dice? , Blackwell Pubs., 1989) and Golubitsky (mathematics, Univ. of Houston) show how these modern mathematical concepts can be used to describe many of the most interesting features of the physical and biological world. This is not an easy book but well worth the effort. For larger science collections.-- Harold D. Shane, Baruch Coll. , CUNY

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780486477589
Publisher:
Dover Publications
Publication date:
03/17/2011
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author


Ian Stewart, an active popularizer of mathematics, is Professor of Mathematics at England's University of Warwick and a former columnist for Scientific American's "Mathematical Games" column. In 1995, he won math's version of the Nobel Prize, the Michael Faraday Medal.
Martin Golubitsky is Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Physical Sciences at Ohio State University, where he serves as Director of the Mathematical Biosciences Institute.

Ian Stewart: Winner of the Michael Faraday Medal
Professor Emeritus at Britain's University of Warwick, and Fellow of the Royal Society, Ian Stewart has entertained and instructed readers with a few dozen books, five of which have found their way to Dover: Catastrophe Theory and Its Applications (with Tim Poston, 1996); Concepts of Modern Mathematics, (1995); Another Fine Math You've Got Me Into (2003); Game, Set and Math (2007); and Fearful Symmetry (with Martin Golubitsky, 2011).

His overall output has been wide and various with books on 'straight' mathematics, mathematics teaching, science fiction, as well as a very popular three-volume series, The Science of Discworld, with Terry Pratchett and Jack Cohen.

In the Author's Own Words:
"By the 18th century science had been so successful in laying bare the laws of nature that many thought there was nothing left to discover. Immutable laws prescribed the motion of every particle in the universe, exactly and forever: the task of the scientist was to elucidate the implications of those laws for any particular phenomenon of interest. Chaos gave way to a clockwork world. But the world moved on. . . . Today even our clocks are not made of clockwork. . . . With the advent of quantum mechanics, the clockwork world has become a lottery. Fundamental events, such as the decay of a radioactive atom, are held to be determined by chance, not law." — Ian Stewart

Critical Acclaim for Fearful Symmetry:
"This book's central theme involves two remarkably nonintuitive facts. First, a completely symmetric plane looks the same at every point and from every angle. We find this uninteresting and pay it no heed. Thus, what we detect as symmetry is, in fact, those symmetries that remain after the greater symmetry has been broken. Second, the study of symmetry is really the study of groups of transformations. Stewart and Golubitsky show how these modern mathematical concepts can be used to describe many of the most interesting features of the physical and biological world. This is not an easy book but well worth the effort." — Library Journal

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