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The Equation that Couldn't Be Solved: How Mathematical Genius Discovered the Language of Symmetry Hardcover – Sep 13 2005

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Strong Is the New Pretty

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (Sept. 13 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743258207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743258203
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.3 x 23.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 599 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,092,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

From Publishers Weekly

The idea of symmetry has been heavily deployed in recent science popularizations to introduce advanced subjects in math and physics. This approach usually backfires—mathematical symmetry is much too difficult for most laypeople to understand. But this engaging treatise soft-pedals it in a crowd-pleasing way. The title's formula is the "quintic" equation (involving x raised to the fifth power), the analysis of which gave rise to "group theory," the mathematical apparatus scientists use to explore symmetry. Inevitably, the author's attempts to explain group theory and its applications in particle physics and string theory to a general audience fall sadly short, so readers will just have to take his word for the Mozartean beauty of it all. Fortunately, astrophysicist Livio (The Golden Ratio) keeps the hard stuff to a minimum, concentrating instead on interesting digressions into human interest (e.g., the founder of group theory, Evariste Galois, was a revolutionary firebrand who died in 1832 at age 20 in a duel over "an infamous coquette"), pop psychology (women have more orgasms when their partners have symmetrical faces), strategies for finding a soul mate and some easy math puzzles readers might actually solve. The result is a somewhat shapeless but intriguing excursion. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

From the second-degree, or quadratic, equation taught in algebra, scale up to the fifth-degree, or quintic, equation to grasp astrophysicist Livio's topic. Because the general solution to quintic equations opened up the study of symmetry, which itself enlightens the study of biology, music, visual art, and particle physics, Livio is loaded with story material, none more interesting than biographies of two young mathematicians: Niels Henrik Abel (1802-29) and Evariste Galois (1811-32). Prodigies both, each suffered tragically, Abel dying of tuberculosis, Galois in a duel. Relating the stories of centuries of mathematicians defeated by the quintic equation, Livio captures the brilliant intuitions of Abel and Galois, who courageously dumped the fruitlessness of previous algebraic methods and mastered the quintic through ideas subsumed into group theory. This admirable presentation of a mathematical revolution will challenge general readers but will deliver ample rewards. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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September 17, 2017
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 39 reviews
David H. Hawley
5.0 out of 5 starsClear and readable, should appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in mathematical history. You will be drawn in.
September 22, 2015 - Published on Amazon.com
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K. in Texas
5.0 out of 5 stars... knack for explaining difficult mathematical concepts in clear and easy to understand language
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David Eger
5.0 out of 5 starsWell written it gives the history of the main characters ...
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Michael Steiner
4.0 out of 5 starsGood book
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Alejandro Dezerega
4.0 out of 5 starsInteresting travel through math history
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