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



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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2005

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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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