Swiss Army knife of science presented in new book – University of Copenhagen

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29 March 2012

Swiss Army knife of science presented in new book

Copenhagen chemist wants to disseminate universal tool for mathematics

Not many tools can pound nails, saw through boards and gauge tire pressure. But now a chemist, a physicist and a computer scientist have published an entire book stuffed with mathematical universal tools spanning a broad range of applications.



Geeky book for wide readership

With a title like, “Symmetry-Adapted Basis Sets: Automatic Generation for Problems in Chemistry and Physics”, you might suspect that the book is aimed at true nerds. And it is. But it’s written for the widest possible range of nerds. Chemists, electronic engineers, bridge builders, meteorologists and any one else who makes use of mathematical models to understand scientific phenomenon.Om de matematiske lighedspunkter mellem guitarspil og kvantekemi

Sten Rettrup, one of the book’s three authors has taught chemical theory at the University of Copenhagen for more than 30 years and sees symmetry as a mathematical tool that can be deployed for nearly everything.

“Whether a differential equation describes a quantum mechanic system or a development in the weather does not really make much of a difference. Mathematically speaking there are great similarities between playing guitar and quantum mechanics when you want to describe what is happening,” says the chemist, who believes that “Symmetry Adapted Basis Sets” fills a gap in the literature on the use of symmetry.

En mere global tilgang til beregninger gør værktøjer universelle

In contrast to the usual group theoretical methods, the book describes a simpler method utilizing computer techniques.

“If you walk into any university library you will find a half a mile of books on symmetry. But they all describe the mathematical applications in relation to just one aspect of science. Our starting point is that the same basic tools can be used at all levels,” explains Rettrup.

Strength in bringing together various mathematical cultures

As a chemist, researcher and educator, Sten Rettrup recognizes that he is known mostly for the description of symmetry known as Group Theory, a key element in work with molecular level quantum mechanic calculations.

Rettrup’s co-authors however, come from entirely different math cultures. John Scales Avery is first and foremost a mathematical physicist and the other, James Emil Avery, is a computer scientist. As a result of these three perspectives, “Symmetry -Adapted Basis Sets” provides a useful reference work for any type of scientific phenomenon that one might model. From the electron structure of atoms and molecules to thermal conductivity and acoustics to wind, weather and structural designs, the book can be a handy acquaintance for physicists, chemists, engineers and -of course – mathematicians.

“We simply present a range of ideas for how one can tackle and deal with calculation problems, especially larger complex problems. I would argue that there is hardly a scientific area in which symmetry can't be used to model problems,” asserts Rettrup, the recently published theoretician.


Automatic Generation for Problems in Chemistry and Physics

Book or Ebook at World Scientific Publishing Co.