10 Greatest Ideas in the History of Science
Symmetry Quantifies Beauty

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Symmetry, that somewhat vague concept that involves folding or twisting triangles, cubes and other objects in various ways has applications far beyond high school geometry class. As it turns out, the universe is riddled with symmetry, or the lack thereof.

The most beautiful human faces are also the most symmetrical. Atoms in a crystal are arranged in a symmetrical, repeating pattern. Many other phenomena throughout nature exhibit breathtaking symmetry, from honeycombs to spiral galaxies.

Particle physics and astrophysics are also captivated by the concept of symmetry. One of the biggest asymmetries is the fact that our universe is made of more matter than antimatter. If the universe were perfectly symmetrical, there would be equal amounts of both. (But then the universe probably wouldn't exist since matter and antimatter annihilate each other.) However, as Atkins writes, the universe is symmetrical "if simultaneously we change particles for antiparticles..., reflect the universe in a mirror..., and reverse the direction of time."

Does that explain why Miss Universe is always so pretty?

Source: Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science by Peter Atkins

Image: Discovery News

 


‹‹ Matter Is Made of Atoms Classical Mechanics Fails to Describe Small Particles ››

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