- Hardcover: 363 pages
- Publisher: Prometheus Books (October 1, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1591022428
- ISBN-13: 978-1591022428
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,120,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe Hardcover – October 1, 2004
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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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
Anyone interested in mathematics, modern physics or even abstract art would really love to read this one.
The topic of symmetry is important to our lives as human beings and lovers of fine art, as well as a critical method used by modern physicists exploring quantum field theoretical explanations of reality.
Lederman begins with a very deliberate and careful exploration of what symmetry is, before proceding to
many examples of its relevance to science and to physics.
Simply put, this is a tour de force on modern physics and no one should miss it, if she or he would like to comprehend
modern quantum field theory.
Even apart from its explanations of physics, the book succeeds well as an entertaining romp through
all aspects of symmetry.
Don't miss it!
I debated whether to let my thoughts on the Kindle version affect the number of stars, but decided to rate on the contents and just WARN of the Kindle problems. There are more inane typos in the text than you'd find in a world of Tweets. And they are concentrated in the formulas. Yes, the book has formulas, though little math connected with them--just short-hand ways of describing what the author explains in words and examples. But even I, far from a math wizard, could tell that the formulas, particularly sub and superscripts, were nonsensical. It's hard to describe in a review where there is no way to indicate a sub or superscript, but for example, when using a negative power, instead of a minus sign there were two commas. Over and over. Parts of formulas were just left out: it's as if a physics text said F=m and forgot the "a" part when describing motion. The book slowed down because whenever I encountered the typos, I found myself writing this review in my head and losing the train of thought of the book.
Whoever was in charge of putting this into Kindle format must have left on a long vacation as soon as the scanner stopped whirring and never looked at the text again. The publisher should be ashamed, mortified, to put this into the stream of commerce, and the author should sue the publisher for misrepresentation!! But I guess publisher mortification is limited to the Horrid Things that will happen if it lets Amazon set prices for e-books.
Get the dead tree version and welcome to the world physicists talk about when they rave about the beauties of symmetry.
A relatively unknown female mathematician has formulated and proven one of the most fundamental theorems in mathematics and physics. I am embarrassed by the fact that the world has ignored, and is still ignoring, Emmy Noether who has proven the following theorem in 1915. "For every continuous symmetry of the laws of physics, there must exist a conservation law, and conversely for every conservation law, there must exist a continuous symmetry". From this all basic concepts like conservation of momentum, conservation of energy, Galilean relativity, inertia, Newton's laws, conservation of angular momentum, Kepler's laws of orbits, etc. can be explained and interlinked. When you subsequently add the ultimate symmetry of the invariance of the speed of light to any frame of reference whether this is moving, rotating, or accelerating, everything changes very fundamentally through Einstein's Special and General Relativity. All of a sudden time is no longer linear and we have to include "singularities" (black holes) into our equations. Still "Time" is the odd one out which becomes clear when we look in the "mirror" and reflection symmetry or parity symmetry is introduced, here things start to fall apart a bit and to maintain time reversal symmetry concepts like entropy and even more foreign notions of anti matter need to be introduced. Richard Feynman already referred to anti particles as particles moving back in time. This in itself creates a new form of particle - anti particle symmetry, also called charge conjugation. It appears that at the subatomic level symmetry is broken. An example is the weak interaction force, which does not obey the rules of reflection or parity symmetry. Later it was assumed that perhaps the combination of parity symmetry and charge conjugation would be a symmetry which applies to the weak force. Alas, this also appeared through experiments (with a special type of subatomic particles called K-mesons) not to be true. Intriguingly, if it were true there would be the same amount of matter and anti matter in our universe and if that would be true the universe as we know it cannot exist! Our universe was born when, at the moment of the big bang, symmetry was "broken".
The only way to construct a symmetry to which the weak force succumbs is when we add a third discrete symmetry transformation, i.e. the reversal of time. This is required to ensure that there is conservation of "probability" in quantum mechanics (All probabilities added together will always have to equal one. Remember Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and Schrodinger's "probability" Wave Equation). Clearly at subatomic level a lot of "tricks" are required! Here the search for "hidden symmetries" begins and the mysterious Gauge Symmetry is slowly revealing itself in the "standard model" and its quarks, leptons and gluons unifying all the basic forces in our universe. Now we only need to find the missing Higgs (or God's) Particle."
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