Friday, 20 April 2007

Symmetry: more algebra

Those of you who were baffled by the waffle when I last mentioned maths in the media may be pleased to hear that there was a much simpler introduction to the area of group theory on the radio this morning. The In Our Time program focussed on symmetry, with Melvyn Bragg takling to the usual mathematical suspects (Ian Stewart and Marcus du Sautoy) and a theoretical physicist.

They managed to relate symmetry to everything from quadratic equations, squares and triangles to isocahedra, quintic equations and duels over love and politics; from cavemen recognising animals to the monster group; and from the nerves of balance in our ears to simple relativity and the dream of a theory of everything.

A couple of times, Bragg asked the physicist to explain a mathematical concept, or asked one of the mathematicians about applications to physics, which seemed slightly odd. I wonder whether he thought the non-specialist would do a better job of speaking in terms the audience would understand.

10 points for the name(s) of this symmetrical bridge.

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