“Symmetry, Symmetry, Symmetry”

tarasov-this-amazingly-symmetrical-worldWhen we see the word ‘Symmetry’, we used to think vo! It is a topic in elementary particle physics, crystal structures, rotational symmetry, transnational symmetry and other things… full theory, and we feel it’s a boring topic.  Once we decide it’s a boring topic, no matter what happens we never ever even try to look at it.  I feel this is the nature of normal student.  But now, I am here to tell you about a book which is written on “Symmetry”!, believe it or not once you read this book you will surely say, without ‘symmetry’ atom, matter, earth, life, etc,.… nothing would have existed!

      Symmetry is one of the most general properties of nature.  And Symmetry is not restricted to Chemistry, Crystal Structure and Particle Physics.  It can be visualize everywhere in nature.  It can be seen in animals, plants, birds, humans, snowflakes, non living objects… what not! Everywhere you can see symmetry.  In the book “This Amazingly Symmetrical World” the author quotes a sentence said by M Gardner (mathematician and science writer) that “On the earth life started out with spherical symmetry, than branched off in two major directions: the plant world with symmetry similar to that of cone, and animal world with bilateral symmetry.”  Yes it is true! If you see any plant from top, the structure of the plant looks like cone.  The cone structure ensures equal sharing of sun light to all parts.  And all animals do exhibit bilateral symmetry.  Symmetry controls the structures of all living organisms.  Amazing!

     Throughout the book author puts above sentence in this way “Symmetry limits the diversity of structures in nature.”  And he gives many examples of which one of the interesting examples is this one… Many of our science fiction stories portraits that extraterrestrials may look very different than organisms found on earth.  But symmetry tells you, whatever the extraterrestrials looks like, they must exhibit bilateral symmetry.  The reason is our laws of physics are universal in nature.  That is, whatever the planet, the planet will have gravity, and our physics laws works same as it worked here.  And again all our symmetric conservation laws of nature works the same in that world.  If the conditions present in other planet and here is same then, extraterrestrials should exhibit bilateral symmetry.  What fiction stories tell such as, a single eye, and single ear or any wired organisms is not possible just like that.  Symmetry of physics laws restricts those structures.  For example if extraterrestrials has ear, it should have two ears with same size and shape on opposite side.  At the same time it does not mean that symmetry can predict the possible structures in nature; instead it can predict structures which are not possible in nature.  Whatever the topics in which you study symmetry, symmetry always tells you what is not possible in nature.  Symmetric laws are sometimes called as ‘Prohibition Laws’.  These are some of the examples which I liked, but in book it covers many aspects of symmetry found in nature.  And lot more interesting examples. You will  really enjoy reading this book.

     “This Amazingly Symmetric World” is a book written by L. Tarasov and published by MIR Publication.  It is a general science book written in a very lucid language, and requires knowledge of elementary school physics to read.    Book begins with the conversation between author and reader (who is yet to know the world of symmetry) and finally ends with another conversation between them, but now reader has seen the beauty of symmetry.  Conversations are joy to read.  The book has two parts, ‘Symmetry Around Us’ which will show you symmetry found around the nature that we live.  And the second part is ‘Symmetry at the Heart of Everything’ which talks about the symmetry found in elementary particles and how our conservation laws are said to be universal laws.  I feel reading about symmetry is like reading nature’s beautiful power!  This book really shows  you that.   I am sure when you read this book, you will definitely say, beautiful and powerful tool of nature is symmetry!  Without this nothing would have existed!

     And also we always study many topics in science in a narrow field, and think why we need to study all these? What is so special about these things?  But when we come out of it and start looking at these beautiful things in a big picture, it wonders us, and gives more clarity about why we need to study these things, and what are the roles they play in nature.  This is true with symmetry or for that matter any topic in any subject.

e-copy of this book can be downloaded here…


(I would like to thank my teacher Mr Madusudhan sir [Scientific Officer at Bangalore Planetarium] who showed this book and inspired me to read this book.)

-Viswa Keerthy S (06/07/2013)