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Fearful Symmetry: Is God a Geometer? (Penguin science) Paperback – September 7, 1993


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin science
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (September 7, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140130470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140130478
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,345,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From 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
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About 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

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Geert Daelemans on November 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
Breaking Symmetry is certainly a magic term in this book. With the use of innumerable real-life examples and the use of dozens of pictures Stewart and Golubitsky try to illustrate the basic concept of the "Theory-That-Covers-Everything". Being confronted with the dissection of physical phenomenon into degrees of symmetry, gives the reader enough reason to believe that the "big theory" might ultimately be uncovered by using the mathematical tool of Breaking Symmetry. But this book also points out that scientists are still far away from reaching this ultimate goal.
The patterns discussed in this book takes you to the invisible world of quarks, then shows you the wonderful stripes on the fur of a tiger and finally let you surf the spiral-arms of our Galaxy. Clearly it gives the reader the opportunity to have a taste from more than one scientific discipline: Biology, Physic, Chemistry, Maths, they are all addressed in this book.
But be aware: you must keep yourself very alert while reading it, because the train of thought is not always easy to follow. Apart from the sometimes strange jumps, the narration is very clear and easy to understand, which will certainly enable you to get more insight into the fascinating world of symmetry.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "thirteenthfairy" on August 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book really improved my understanding of what physicists are talking about when they speak of Symmetry Breaking. The book makes it possible for you to understand the underpinnings of this concept whilst doing nothing more intellectual than pouring the milk onto your breakfast cereal. Lots of good illustrations.Nothing to be frightened of in this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Didaskalex VINE VOICE on August 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
*****
"Tiger, tiger, burning bright: In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye: Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" -- William Blake

Fearful symmetry? William Blake, alluded to the beauty of the fearful tiger! Nature's patterns are a source of inspiration and awe; though with numerous scientific problems. Philosophers and scientists, impressed by the natural world's prevalent patterns, have declared God a master mathematician. King Ptolemy inquired, somewhat attentively, after Euclid had shown him his treatise on geometry, "Cannot the problems be made easier?" to which the geometer replied, "There is no royal road to geometry." This is true when applied to Symmetry, itself, a royal road leading us to divine wisdom, if we will but perceive its meaning and grasp its ideas . Have you ever wondered why tigers have stripes but leopards have spots? Did it ever occur to you that snails are seldom left-handed? If chaos is the signature of a Dicing Deity, then symmetry is the signature of a Geometer God.

Symmetry exists in all facets of life, and we see it as a manifestation of harmony and beauty by proportionality and balance that aesthetics imparts. This accessible book employs the mathematical concepts of symmetry to portray fascinating aspects of the physical and biological world. Paradoxically, it is the breaking of symmetry that is responsible for many of nature's patterns. Fearful Symmetry will zoom your focus on the broken symmetries that lie all around us, from the shapes in the clouds to the silken lines of a spider's web, from the hoof beats of a galloping horse to the sparkling surfaces of a diamond.
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