Symmetry and the Monster: One of the greatest quests of mathematics

Symmetry and the Monster: One of the greatest quests of mathematics by Mark Ronan

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The hunt for the 'Monster' of symmetry is one of the great mathematical quests, alongside Fermat's Last Theorem, the Riemann Hypothesis, and Poincar--eacute--; Conjecture. The Monster is a giant snowflake in 196,884 dimensions - the largest exception to our neat classifications of symmetry, with a beautiful structure which may turn out to unlock our understanding of symmetry, string theory, and the very fabric of our universe. The story of its discovery became the biggest joint mathematical project of all time - involving determination, luck, and some very extraordinary characters. - ;Mathematics is being driven forward by the quest to solve a small number of major problems - generating excitement in the mathematical world and beyond. Four famous challenges have been Fermat's Last Theorem, the Riemann Hypothesis, Poincar--eacute--;'s Conjecture, and, now, the quest for the 'Monster' of Symmetry. It is this latter that forms the topic of this book. Although its roots go back much further, the quest to understand symmetry really begins with the tragic young genius Evariste Galois, who died at the age of 20 in a duel. He used symmetry to understand algebraic equations, and he discovered that there were building blocks or 'atoms of symmetry'. Most fit into a table, rather like the periodic table of elements, but there are 26 exceptions. The biggest of these was dubbed 'the Monster' - a giant snowflake in 196,884 dimensions. At first the Monster was only dimly seen. Did it really exist, or was it a mirage? Many mathematicians became involved. The Monster became clearer, and it was no longer monstrous but a beautiful form that pointed out deep connections between symmetry, string theory, and the very fabric and form of the universe. The story of the discovery involves some extraordinary characters, and Mark Ronan brings these people to life, and recreates in accessible language the growing excitement of what became the biggest joint project ever in the field of mathematics - the hunt for the Monster. - ;...includes entertaining glimpses of the personalities involved ...but best of all gives an admirable amount of detail... - TLS;a fascinating book that will appeal to anyone with an appetite for exploration and discovery, and which is accessble to all. -
Publication Date:
18 / 05 / 2006

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