Symmetry and the Monster by Mark Ronan

Symmetry and the Monster

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, Poincare'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 symme...

Details Symmetry and the Monster

TitleSymmetry and the Monster
Release DateJul 1st, 2006
PublisherOxford University Press, USA
GenreScience, Mathematics, Nonfiction, Popular Science, History

Reviews Symmetry and the Monster

  • Bryan Higgs
    I loved this book! I tried to explain to a class I was teaching on Symmetry that I could not put it down. It was almost like a detective novel! The fact that it was probably the seventh or eighth book on symmetry I had read by then makes this all the more surprising and shows how well the author does his job.The book describes how the largest ever mathematical proof was solved by hundreds of mathematicians over many, many pages of proofs. Sounds ...
  • Yael
    The hero of this book, the Monster of Symmetry, is a giant snowflake that requires 196,884 dimensions to describe it. Rather than being a mere mathematical curiosity, its structure points to deep connections between symmetry, number theory, and mathematical physics. Ultimately it may help us come to understand the fabric of our universe -- or even the infinite multiverse.This is the story of the quest to discover the Monster. Beginning in revolut...
  • Dav
    I have to give this one five stars, if for no other reason because it was the book I was reading when I finally started to understand group theory. It covered the history and importance of this branch of mathematics much the same as Why Beauty Is Truth: The Story of Symmetry but in a more concise manner. Another difference is this book was thematically structured around the development of a particularly interesting artifact of group theory known ...
  • Bojan Tunguz
    One of the greatest achievements of the 20th century mathematics has been the classification of the finite simple groups. Groups are mathematical objects that tells us about symmetries, and like many other mathematical objects they are relatively easy to describe, but can be fiendishly difficult to fully understand. Sometimes understanding comes from a single brilliant insights by an incredibly gifted individual, and these individuals become part...
  • Bretbenesh
    It was good, and it made me more interested in learning more about some of the sporadic simple groups (this is pretty close to my field of research).The best points: it provides a good history of finite group theory and is an engaging read. I think that he also does a good job making the technical mathematics accessible to the layperson.I have two complaints:1. In order to retain my membership as a pedantic mathematician, I will point out that he...
  • Tim Robinson
    On second reading, I've downgraded this book from five stars to four. Towards the end the maths dries up and the story becomes one of names, dates and places. I'm feeling brave enough to tackle some more technical details but they are lacking. What is the "next book up" on this topic?
  • Chris
    With some warts, Ronan has nearly achieved the holy grail of mathematics exposition: (1) short, (2) readable, (3) about mathematical objects of significance and interest.While the book has significant flaws, I give it 4/5 because the writing is clear enough for a non-mathematician, and there are so few of those in existence. Bad marks for supposed applicability of the ideas to the real world (including the usual demons of quantum physics, binary ...
  • Who4
    This book started well but did not end so well. As one reviewer pointed out, there is not enough mathematics in this book, there is only allusion to mathematical concepts, which is great, but the book seemed unsure about whether it wanted to be a history of modern group theory or if it wanted to popularize group theory. As a history it works fine because, for the most part, it steers clear of political thought. I say for the most part because som...
  • Basement Dweller
    A fun read that will likely get you at least somewhat interested in group theory. But the book uses analogies to talk about the ideas of the mathematical concepts rather than directly explaining them. If I were to explain something like addition in a similar manner that Ronan sometimes explains things in his book it might sound like this: it is an operation that takes two numbers and combines them to create another. It’s good because it doesnâ€...
  • Wanda
    Ronan paints a fascinating historical perspective of the mathematical developments that lead up to the discovery of the Monster, as well as the "Moonshine" connections to other domains (e.g. number theory, string theory). However, I felt that although Ronan's enthusiasm for the topic is supreme and his passion for explaining the mathematical process shines, the writing of this book lacked polish and the analogies used were not clear; as a math en...
  • Ellen Lee
    It nicely summarized all the major mathematical achievements that eventually led to the discovery of the Monster and the baby. The climax could be more dramatic, but I also liked the dryness in the tone of the narration. It was a good contrast when using the dry tone when narrating very dramatic and rather flame-like lives of many mathematicians, such as Galois and Sophus Lie, and their daring achievement to find the most beautiful and complex sy...
  • Hyung Mook Kang
    Last three to four chapters are the most important chapters in this book. The rest are about mainly introducing the concept of group and Lie groups, with a slight of a monster. He tried to explain as best as he could about the concept of the simple group, but ended up repeating again and again that simple group is the group that is so "simple". This book basically tells you that there are mysterious connections between monster, modular form, and ...
  • Gregory
    This is a well written book especially considering the abstract nature of the material. I personally would have liked a little more detail on things. Maybe a description of four group families that have a Euclidean description. Though I don't think this would have be good for most readers. Most of the time when I would wish he would explain something it would appear in a few pages. So he addressed most of my criticisms before the book ended.
  • Ookami
    A well written book in the sense of understandable to someone with some interest and understanding of mathematics and history. Abstract mathematics is a help. The book is an interesting story of connections. Sometimes it feels like things are glossed over and the book could have contained both more history and technical explanations (perhaps more illustrations and examples). Still, I found it an enjoyable read over 2 days and an introduction to a...
  • Nigel McFarlane
    This describes the journey from the origins of group theory to the discovery of "The Monster" - a gigantic multi-dimensional symmetry that completed the classification of the groups. The biographical details are fascinating and frequently very sad, particularly when they concern the destruction wrought on German mathematics by the Nazis.
  • Mark
    I enjoyed the birds-eye view of strange connections between areas within mathematics and physics. His explanations lost me a few times, but it was well worth the read.
  • Robert
    Goes into great detail on the project to classify the simple groups.
  • Glenn
    Laymen can read this book guilt-free. Mark Ronan has provided an excellent insight to undergrad Math students on the workings of those people in Math careers. Excellent writing, Mark!
  • Jonathan Widell
    Too bad the book omits the obvious reference to "the shoulders of giants". What did I get out of the book? I found it fascinating to see how scientific discovery evolves in practice over centuries. It takes an oddball here and an oddball there to get the best results. Sometimes you go back to old books to find out what other have found out before you. Ronan provides a partly first-person account of this endeavour called Monsters and Moonshine and...
  • Francis
    I really enjoyed this book. I think it gave a very rich yet comprehensible picture of the history of finite group theory (concentrating on the classification of the finite simple groups), starting with a bit of pre-history from the ancient Greeks, but really starting with Galois' immortal work on , and tracing the the major players in the 19th century like Cauchy, Jordan, Lie, Klein, Burnside, and the 20th century, like Dickson, Thompson, Gorenst...
  • Francisco RodrĂ­guez
    It is very difficult to read a mathematical book with a good balance between explaining the maths and not delving into difficult details. Each reader has a different preference. This book didn't achieve that balance for me at all. It explains too clearly the very easy things such as how to know the order of a polynomial, giving examples and so on, but anything more difficult than that is not explained at all: not even attempted. As a result I did...
  • Matthew
    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 man...
  • James
    Interesting experience reading. The book had explanations of how groups worked. I grasped each one loosely, then kind of forgot what I had grasped as I read on. I had a kind of "Tacit Dimension" style grasp of the explanations as I went into the next explanation. So now I have a vague sense of what groups are (and of how the various structures leading up to the Monster are), which was more than I had before. It's like, I understand, but I don't. ...
  • Meghan
    The subject matter of Ronan's "Symmetry and the Monster" is fascinating: Symmetry mathematics, an accidental quest of discovery that lasts for centuries, tie-ins with String Theory, Quantum Physics and the j-function. Still, though, I would not recommend this book if this is one's initial foray into studying any of these subjects. Ronan, while he writes gently and does explain some concepts, is first and foremost interested in the mathematical di...
  • Charles
    Symmetry and the Monster: The Story of One of the Greatest Quests of Mathematics, By Mark Ronan. Oxford University Press, 2006. Note: I am also posting (probably several times) about this book and others like it on Gyre&Gimble.This is an excellent way for the non-mathematician to learn about what is going on in the attempt to classify symmetries by discovering all the finite "simple groups". The last one found was the Monster Group and the classi...
  • Erickson
    Good introduction on symmetry and group theory, with sufficient breadth though not depth. However, the writing style is quite 'vexing' sometimes, especially on the part where the author kept repeating "we shall meet with this later" or "we will deal with this in the next chapter" etc. too many times. It at one juncture really made the reader 'fed up'.Nonetheless, the book is broad enough to let readers know what is at stake and what are the thing...
  • Thomas Bartsch
    The author presents the long succession of mathematicians who contributed to the classification of the finite simple groups. He indicates the debates and achievements that finally led to the complete solution. While reading the book I found myself swept up in the excitement of the quest.Unfortunately, the mathematical content of the book is minimal. If, like me, you are hoping to learn about the groups themselves, as opposed to the mathematicians...
  • Brandon Wicke
    Informative, though very dense and perhaps beyond my reach. Math, unlike physics where I have more experience, is much tougher to grasp conceptually, and I feel I would've benefitted from more exploration on how the great monster of symmetry underpins our physical universe, though perhaps that's simply not known yet. A good read, less interesting to me than the Language of Numbers, but definitely gives one the same inspiring sense that there is a...
  • Mohammed Hashem
    I have attended a lecture about this book by the author in UCL early this year. At that time I did not know much about group theory, and after taking a class on it. I liked the topic so much that I ended up buying the book. It was great.A well written book on a great mathematical topic. I'm disappointed that I missed the opportunity to buy a signed copy at the lecture.
  • Scott
    An interesting book but more difficult (and less accessible) than I had hoped in an account of symmetry intended for a non-mathematician audience. There is not enough explanation of the how's to make the why's resonate in this reader's mind.