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Not for the faint of mathematical heart, but a dramatically presented and polished treasure of theories.

A pilgrimage through the uncanny world of symmetry.

Du Sautoy (Mathematics/Oxford; The Music of the Primes: Searching to Solve the Greatest Mystery in Mathematics, 2003, etc.) has two concerns. The first is defining the role of symmetry as a key to understanding many of nature’s intimate relationships: how it reveals genetic superiority through the conspicuous display of energy required to produce such beauty; how it signals to creatures (in “a very basic, almost primeval form of communication”) to go about the important business of reproduction. Du Sautoy’s second concern regards the ways in which symmetry achieves economy, efficiency and stability in nature, as in the comb of a honeybee hive or in spheres like bubbles and raindrops, which place a premium on surface area relative to a given volume. The author’s prose is equally economical and elegant, but when he gets going on the math behind the symmetry he enters a realm dense with equations and jargon, likely to give the math-challenged a case of the fantods: “I dive into an explanation of how I think you could use Galois’s groups PSL(2, p) built from permuting lines, mixed with zeta functions to try to prove that there are infinitely many Mersenne primes…” Still, du Sautoy doesn’t leave readers dangling; he takes pains to explain the secret language of math, even if it requires considerable backing-and-filling to keep pace with him. Impressively, he conveys the thrill of grasping the mathematics that lurk in the tile work of the Alhambra, or in palindromes, or in French mathematician Évariste Galois’s discovery of the interactions between the symmetries in a group.

Not for the faint of mathematical heart, but a dramatically presented and polished treasure of theories.

Pub Date: March 11, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-078940-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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