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Author: David Hilbert,Stephan Cohn-Vossen

Publisher: American Mathematical Soc.

ISBN: 0821819984

Category: Mathematics

Page: 357

View: 9673

This remarkable book endures as a true masterpiece of mathematical exposition. The book is overflowing with mathematical ideas, which are always explained clearly and elegantly, and above all, with penetrating insight. It is a joy to read, both for beginners and experienced mathematicians. Geometry and the Imagination is full of interesting facts, many of which you wish you had known before. The book begins with examples of the simplest curves and surfaces, including thread constructions of certain quadrics and other surfaces. The chapter on regular systems of points leads to the crystallographic groups and the regular polyhedra in $\mathbb{R}^3$. In this chapter, they also discuss plane lattices. By considering unit lattices, and throwing in a small amount of number theory when necessary, they effortlessly derive Leibniz's series: $\pi/4 = 1 - 1/3 + 1/5 - 1/7 + - \ldots$. In the section on lattices in three and more dimensions, the authors consider sphere-packing problems, including the famous Kepler problem. One of the most remarkable chapters is ``Projective Configurations''. In a short introductory section, Hilbert and Cohn-Vossen give perhaps the most concise and lucid description of why a general geometer would care about projective geometry and why such an ostensibly plain setup is truly rich in structure and ideas. The chapter on kinematics includes a nice discussion of linkages and the geometry of configurations of points and rods that are connected and, perhaps, constrained in some way. This topic in geometry has become increasingly important in recent times, especially in applications to robotics. This is another example of a simple situation that leads to a rich geometry. It would be hard to overestimate the continuing influence Hilbert-Cohn-Vossen's book has had on mathematicians of this century. It surely belongs in the "pantheon" of great mathematics books.