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Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe Paperback – Nov 30 2007
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From 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.
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"A tour de force of physics made simple...."
— Times Literary Supplement
“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
Top Customer Reviews
The appendix provides detailed step-by-step explanation of how symmetry groups work.
A little history and philosophy is thrown in too. An example which I found interesting is how long ago was it realised that light had a finite speed? I found the answer surprising.
Although the writing style is light, the subject matter is certainly not "dumbed down". I recommend this book to anyone who has a more than casual interest in physics.
The problem though is that this knowledge was gleaned through the hard work and creativity of mental giants, using abstract tools of higher math on one hand and giant atom smashers on the other.
Pity then the writer who tries to convey the essence of the findings to the reader who has familiarity with neither.
But the two authors here have done a good job. I had some trouble following a few passages. But this is more than made up for in the rest of the book by the lucid descriptions and explanations of how symmetry goes to the core of the latest discoveries in physics. It really is a beautiful universe. And although this book may leave a few mysteries not completely explained, think of it as an invitation to explore further!
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