Summary and Info
The first three chapters of this book are worthy of separate publication. They could be read by any bright undergraduate with full comprehension, and they introduce in a marvelously clear way the unifying power of forms defined on an ambient Euclidean space using basic examples from physics (work and flow).
Throughout the author clearly demonstrates the need for mathematical rigor. Whenever he uses an informal example or argument, he will always conclude the section by analyzing why a rigorous argument is needed and often outlining how such an argument could be achieved. Later on in the book (in the sixth chapter) he will finally develop all the arguments rigorously in full depth.
After this third chapter, however, the book starts becoming less elegant and more tedious. Linear algebra is discussed--but without any of the modern notation! Vectors are a rare character here, and matrices are scantly used other than to define ideas. Instead, you will be bombarded with a hoard of individual variable names. Keeping track of exactly what's going on with all the variable names and summations becomes a task of mental endurance, not ingenuity or understanding. Some modern terminology is actually discussed, such as vector spaces and linear transformations, but not until the end of the chapter on linear algebra, effectively defeating the point. It is as if the material were tacked on just to make the book conform more to the standard content coverage.
Note that here you will not find a k-form defined as a member of the k-th exterior power of the cotangent bundle of a manifold. Rather than such an abstract definition, this book is far more down-to-earth and hence will allow readers who do not have serious mathematical training to grasp the power and beauty of forms. Depending on your previous familiarity with forms and on your mathematical background, this is a plus or a minus. For me, it was certainly a plus because until recently the abstract definition I provided above was meaningless garbage to me.
Overall, this is a book that would be best thumbed through at a book store so you can decide if it's worth your time and if the author's style meets your taste. It's a very well-written book with plenty of fresh insights and a novel approach. Mistakes are nearly impossible to find. The author has a powerful and humbling command of mathematics. Unfortunately, the notation was often too outdated for my taste and hindered not only my enjoyment of the book but also my ability to fully understand concepts that appear difficult here because of the onslaught of symbols but which are really rather straightforward in modern notation. But I suppose some people may prefer the different notation.
More About the Author
Harold Mortimer Edwards, Jr. (born August 6, 1936) is an American mathematician working in number theory, algebra, and the history and philosophy of mathematics.
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