A lively companion to Bulent Atalay’s Math and the Mona Lisa (2004), John Barrow’s Book of Nothing (2001) and other recent...

THE EQUATION THAT COULDN’T BE SOLVED

HOW MATHEMATICAL GENIUS DISCOVERED THE LANGUAGE OF SYMMETRY

Evolution favors symmetry. So do people. So does just about everything in the universe.

Astrophysicist Livio (The Golden Ratio, 2002, etc.), no slouch at mathematics himself, crafts an entertaining exploration of how the laws of symmetry have shaped our chaotic little world, and how they inform our appreciation of art and music. One of his great heroes is someone whom mathematicians with a historical bent know well: the French wunderkind Évariste Galois, generally held to be one of the great minds in a field dominated by great minds and the progenitor of what is now called group theory. Galois (1811–32) was a brilliantly troubled kid who loved mathematics, which returned the favor, and a woman who did not. The young genius died in a duel whose occasion has long mystified historians. His last, supremely memorable, words were: “Don’t cry, I need all my courage to die at twenty.” Before he died, however, Galois impacted the course of history. Among other accomplishments, he formed a new branch of algebra known as Galois theory. Livio’s history is elegant but, suffice it to say, not for the innumerate or the scientifically faint of heart: it helps to know something of quadratic equations and other high-order concepts that would have been second nature to Galois but are harder going for us lesser souls. Galois’s research, Livio writes, helped turn other scientists to thinking about symmetry, which led to Einstein and quantum theory and other wonders of the modern age. It’s a complicated tale, with learned asides on the nature of creativity and, in the bargain, a convincing argument many years after the fact concerning the identity of Galois’s killer.

A lively companion to Bulent Atalay’s Math and the Mona Lisa (2004), John Barrow’s Book of Nothing (2001) and other recent popular studies in mathematical thought.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-5820-7

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2005

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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