What is it about symmetry that draws us to it? From art to math to the natural world humans see (quite literally) something in symmetry that is deeply attractive.

In his book "The Equation that Couldn't be Solved: How Mathematical Genius Discovered the Language of Symmetry," author Mario Livio relates how mathematicians Niels Henrik Abel from Norway and Evariste Galois from France solved the previously unsolvable quintic equation -- partly by inventing a branch of mathematics called group theory (this link is a rather thick Wikipedia entry for non-mathematicians).

Group theory unlocks the language of symmetry.

The Y chromosome, bipeds, great art and music, our notions of space and direction -- all contain at their core expressions of symmetry. Like string theory, which suggests the contours of the physical universe, group theory describes symmetry, which maps much of what we find aesthetically pleasing in nature, art and our relationships.

Livio is also the author of another book, The Golden Ratio, which, like his current effort, suggests deep connections between the logic of math and the arts. For example, the ratio has been used to derive very pleasing proportions, like those found in this Philadelphia Highboy. And like the Golden ratio, group theory is also found the arts, where it is known as set theory in music.

Simon & Schuster reproduces chapter one of Livio's book on its web site. It's mesmerizing. Amazon has the usual reader reaction. Some of these reviews say what I've tried to say here much, much better.

I'll be picking up this book soon.

Wayne