Matthew's Reviews > Symmetry and the Monster: The Story of One of the Greatest Quests of Mathematics

Symmetry and the Monster by Mark Ronan
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's review
Oct 10, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: real-worldy

As the book's subtitle promises, this book is about a quest--meaning, I had not sufficiently appreciated before I picked it up, a great deal of narrative about how mathematicians have to come to know what they know. As a non-mathematician, I did not find this at all helpful. The idea of multidimensional symmetry, for obscure reasons, fascinates me, but it is also intensely abstract and conceptually frustrating. The biographical details of the many people who contributed to group theory and such, especially in considering their false starts, only confuses things. Moreover, Ronan never quite gets beyond this mode to really distill the essence of the theory in its mature form, which is what I really want to understand. This book will probably be of much more utility to readers who already have a better grasp on the math and would like to learn more about the theory's human history, rather than someone like myself who is a nonspecialist interested in learning about symmetry and the Monster.

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