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Mathematical Association of America
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Mark Ronan

Symmetry and the Monster

In the early 1980's there was an unusual buzz in the normally quiet pure mathematics departments of many universities. It looked like the classification of finite groups, a major milestone in the subject, had been completed. Mark Ronan's 'Symmetry and the Monster' gives the history of this process, and in particular the discovery of the last of the 'sporadic' groups known as the 'Monster'. Of particular interest are the 'Moonshine' connections which have been found between this object and totally different areas of mathematics. The book tells the stories of the main contributors to the subject, from Galois up to the present day, and is aimed at the non-specialist reader.

The one problem I found with the book was that I felt the author was shying too much away from technical terms. It's all very well writing a non-technical account, but Ronan seems to get trapped in his simplified terminology, and my feeling is that this book will be read by those who have had some exposure to the subject and want to find out about the history, rather than by complete beginners. Hence using a different terminology is confusing. For those wanting to look further into the subject, I can't help feeling that a search for sporadic simple group is likely to give better results than one for exceptional symmetry atom

Amazon.com info
Hardcover 272 pages  
ISBN: 0192807226
Salesrank: 1629413
Weight:0.65 lbs
Published: 2006 Oxford University Press
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Amazon.co.uk info
Hardcover 264 pages  
ISBN: 0192807226
Salesrank: 1784198
Weight:0.65 lbs
Published: 2006 OUP Oxford
Marketplace:New from £34.88:Used from £2.70
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Amazon.ca info
Hardcover 272 pages  
ISBN: 0192807226
Salesrank: 1284008
Weight:0.65 lbs
Published: 2006 Oxford University Press
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 29.89:Used from CDN$ 3.39
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Product Description
Mathematics is driven forward by the quest to solve a small number of major problems--the four most famous challenges being Fermat's Last Theorem, the Riemann Hypothesis, Poincaré's Conjecture, and the quest for the "Monster" of Symmetry. Now, in an exciting, fast-paced historical narrative ranging across two centuries, Mark Ronan takes us on an exhilarating tour of this final mathematical quest.
Ronan describes how the quest to understand symmetry really began with the tragic young genius Evariste Galois, who died at the age of 20 in a duel. Galois, who spent the night before he died frantically scribbling his unpublished discoveries, used symmetry to understand algebraic equations, and he discovered that there were building blocks or "atoms of symmetry." Most of these building blocks fit into a table, rather like the periodic table of elements, but mathematicians have found 26 exceptions. The biggest of these was dubbed "the Monster"--a giant snowflake in 196,884 dimensions. Ronan, who personally knows the individuals now working on this problem, reveals how the Monster was only dimly seen at first. As more and more mathematicians became involved, the Monster became clearer, and it was found to be not monstrous but a beautiful form that pointed out deep connections between symmetry, string theory, and the very fabric and form of the universe.
This story of discovery involves extraordinary characters, and Mark Ronan brings these people to life, vividly recreating the growing excitement of what became the biggest joint project ever in the field of mathematics. Vibrantly written, Symmetry and the Monster is a must-read for all fans of popular science--and especially readers of such books as Fermat's Last Theorem.