Over a century old, knot theory is today one of the most active areas of modern mathematics. The study of knots has led to important applications in DNA research and the synthesis of new molecules, and has had a significant impact on statistical mechanics and quantum field theory. Colin Adams’s The Knot Book is the first book to make cutting-edge research in knot theory accessible to a non-specialist audience. Starting with the simplest knots, Adams guides readers through increasingly more intricate twists and turns of knot theory, exploring problems and theorems mathematicians can now solve, as well as those that remain open. He also explores how knot theory is providing important insights in biology, chemistry, physics, and other fields. The new paperback edition has been updated to include the latest research results, and includes hundreds of illustrations of knots, as well as worked examples, exercises and problems. With a simple piece of string, an elementary mathematical background, and The Knot Book , anyone can start learning about some of the most advanced ideas in contemporary mathematics. >
Amazon.com Review In February 2001, scientists at the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory announced that they had recorded a simple knot untying itself. Crafted from a chain of nickel-plated steel balls connected by thin metal rods, the three-crossing knot stretched, wiggled, and bent its way out of its predicament — a neat trick worthy of an inorganic Houdini, but more than that, a critical discovery in how granular and filamentary materials such as strands of DNA and polymers entangle and enfold themselves.
A knot seems a simple, everyday thing, at least to anyone who wears laced shoes or uses a corded telephone. In the mathematical discipline known as topology, however, knots are anything but simple: at 16 crossings of a "closed curve in space that does not intersect itself anywhere," a knot can take one of 1,388,705 permutations, and more are possible. All this thrills mathematics professor Colin Adams, whose primer offers an engaging if challenging introduction to the mysterious, often unproven, but, he suggests, ultimately knowable nature of knots of all kinds — whether nontrivial, satellite, torus, cable, or hyperbolic. As perhaps befits its subject, Adams's prose is sometimes, well, tangled ("a knot is amphicheiral if it can be deformed through space to the knot obtained by changing every crossing in the projection of the knot to the opposite crossing"), but his book is great fun for puzzle and magic buffs, and a useful reference for students of knot theory and other aspects of higher mathematics. — Gregory McNamee