Show Book List

Reviews elsewhere on the web:
Plus maths
MAA Online
Not Even Wrong

Mario Livio

The equation that couldn't be solved

Symmetry has always played a large part in the development of mathematics. This book shows how ideas of symmetry were used to settle a long standing question - for which polynomial equations could a formula be found for their roots? The book gives biographical details of the mathematicians working on this problem, and in particular the tragic story of Evariste Galois who was killed in a duel at the age of twenty, having spent the night before hurriedly writing down some of his most important mathematical ideas. Thus Livio makes an abstract mathematical topic accessible to the reader with no previous knowledge of the subject.

Galois work was the start of Group theory, which is the mathematical description of symmetry. Livio goes on to show the important part this theory has come to play in the study of physics, for instance Noether's theorem which relates symmetries to conservation laws, and the use of group theory in particle physics.

My one criticism of the book is that sometimes Livio seems to discuss a subject just of the sake of it. Of course symmetry gives a wide scope for discussion, and some people might enjoy the variety, but I felt that a more focussed approach would have been better. info
Hardcover 368 pages  
ISBN: 0743258207
Salesrank: 1311261
Published: 2005 Simon & Schuster
Amazon price $23.95
Marketplace:New from $17.40:Used from $2.34
Buy from info
Hardcover 368 pages  
ISBN: 0285637436
Salesrank: 1476140
Weight:1.23 lbs
Published: 2006 Souvenir Press Ltd
Marketplace:New from £191.14:Used from £4.60
Buy from info
Hardcover 368 pages  
ISBN: 0743258207
Salesrank: 985439
Weight:1.32 lbs
Published: 2005 Simon & Schuster
Amazon price CDN$ 34.00
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 34.00:Used from CDN$ 0.60
Buy from

Product Description
Traces the four-thousand-year-old mathematical effort to discover and define the laws of symmetry in nature and the arts, citing the achievements of doomed geniuses Niels Henrick Abel and Evariste Galois to solve the quintic equation and give birth to group theory. By the author of The Golden Ratio. 50,000 first printing.