Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe

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Overview

When scientists peer through a telescope at the distant stars in outer space or use a particle-accelerator to analyze the smallest components of matter, they discover that the same laws of physics govern the whole universe at all times and all places. Physicists call the eternal, ubiquitous constancy of the laws of physics symmetry. Symmetry is the basic underlying principle that defines the laws of nature and hence controls the universe. This all-important insight is one of the great conceptual breakthroughs in ...

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Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe

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Overview

When scientists peer through a telescope at the distant stars in outer space or use a particle-accelerator to analyze the smallest components of matter, they discover that the same laws of physics govern the whole universe at all times and all places. Physicists call the eternal, ubiquitous constancy of the laws of physics symmetry. Symmetry is the basic underlying principle that defines the laws of nature and hence controls the universe. This all-important insight is one of the great conceptual breakthroughs in modern physics and is the basis of contemporary efforts to discover a grand unified theory to explain all the laws of physics.

Nobel Laureate Leon M. Lederman and physicist Christopher T. Hill explain the supremely elegant concept of symmetry and all its profound ramifications to life on Earth and the universe at large in this eloquent, accessible popular science book. They not only clearly describe concepts normally reserved only for physicists and mathematicians, but they also instill an appreciation for the profound beauty of the universe’s inherent design.

Central to the story of symmetry is an obscure, unpretentious, but extremely gifted German mathematician named Emmy Noether. Though still little known to the world, she impressed no less a scientist than Albert Einstein, who praised her "penetrating mathematical thinking." In some of her earliest work she proved that the law of the conservation of energy was connected to the idea of symmetry and thus laid the mathematical groundwork for what may be the most important concept of modern physics.

Lederman and Hill reveal concepts about the universe, based on Noether’s work, that are largely unknown to the public and have wide-reaching implications in connection with the Big Bang, Einstein’s theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and many other areas of physics. Through ingenious analogies and illustrations, they bring these astounding notions to life. This book will open your eyes to a universe you never knew existed.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A tour de force of physics made simple...."
— Times Literary Supplement 

“Thought-provoking….”
— Discover 

“Few books about modern physics are as fascinating, far-ranging, and readable as this. It would be appreciated by anyone interested in the nature of science and the beauty of the universe…."
NSTA Recommends

"A compelling and accessible discussion….”
Science Books & Films

Choice
The authors have done an excellent job; the book is fascinating and is an important contribution to the subject.... Strongly recommended.
Publishers Weekly
The concept of symmetry has seen increasing service in science popularizations as a metaphor to convey the intuitive appeal of physics, a vogue that continues in this dense treatise. Nobel Laureate Lederman (The God Particle) and theoretical physicist Hill deploy mathematical symmetry as a unifying theme in a tour of physics from Newton's laws to quarks and superstrings. Sometimes, as in a demonstration that the invariance of physical laws through time implies the law of conservation of energy, this approach yields insights. But usually, as in their confusing exposition of special relativity, symmetry considerations get in the way. The authors keep things readable with lots of physics-for-poets bits, including some tie-ins to environmentalism, comparisons of modern cosmology with ancient Greek myths, and a fictional dialogue-partly in Italian-between two newlywed physicists and Galileo's ghost. Unfortunately, symmetry is a forbiddingly abstract branch of mathematics that was peripheral to the development of much of physics and gives little tangible feel for its substance, and the point where it becomes indispensable to discussions of modern physics is also the tipping point where the book, like many others, topples into total incomprehensibility to laypeople. Readers who think symmetry implies clarity and grace will be disappointed. Photos. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591025757
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 2/28/2008
  • Pages: 363
  • Sales rank: 956,428
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 8.34 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Leon M. LedermanNobel Laureate (Batavia, IL) is the author of Beyond the God ParticleQuantum Physics for Poets, and Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe (coauthored with Christopher T. Hill), as well as The God Particle (with Dick Teresi). He has served as the editor of Portraits of Great American Scientists and a contributor to Science Literacy for the Twenty-First Century. He is formerly the Resident Scholar at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and Pritzker Professor of Science at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and he is director emeritus of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Christopher T. Hill, PhD (Batavia, IL) is the coauthor with Leon M. Lederman of Beyond the God ParticleQuantum Physics for Poets, and Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe. He is a theoretical physicist (Scientist III) and the former head of Theoretical Physics at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : what is symmetry? 15
1 Children of the Titans 27
2 Time and energy 45
3 Emmy Noether 65
4 Symmetry, space, and time 79
5 Noether's theorem 97
6 Inertia 117
7 Relativity 141
8 Reflections 165
9 Broken symmetry 189
10 Quantum mechanics 203
11 The hidden symmetry of light 237
12 Quarks and leptons 257
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2004

    Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe

    I was fortunate to see an advance copy of this book from an editor friend of mine. I can say this is a masterpiece, and I dropped by to buy it. I guess I'll have to wait for its release. I was particularly moved by the biography of Emmy Noether, a tragic figure who ranks with Einstein in her greatness, and who proves a theorem that the authors claim ranks with Pythagoras. I had no idea that there was a female figure in the whole history of science and mathematics of this significance. This book is a MUST for women, for students, or for anyone wanting to start to contemplate and learn this marvelous subject beyond the level of all the fluff books out there. I read Brian Green's excellent book, 'The Elegant Universe,' and I craved more, with in-depth explanations of things, like gravity as curved space and time, and antimatter, quantum theory, and I have finally found it in this book. I didn't know that a magnet was a game of spin the bottle! Thank you Professors Lederman and Hill!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2004

    Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe

    I don't know where to begin, but I do know that this is the book I have been looking for, for over the past decade to teach introductory physics to our humanities majors. The first half dozen chapters are an exquisite introduction to all of nature and all of physics. Anyone with an interest in science will be engaged. The later chapters are more sophisticated, but I found them to be readable and I came away with new concepts and a better understanding of how it all hangs together.

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    Posted July 12, 2010

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