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Symmetry – 1

Prof. Dr. K. Srinivasa Rao
Senior Professor (Retd.), Institute of Mathematical Sciences,
Madras (1972 – 2002);
DST-Ramanujan Professor (Retd.), Srinivasa Ramanujan Center,
SASTRA University, Kumbakonam (2005 – 2009);
Scientist & Principal Investigator, TNSTC, at the PSTC, from April 2009.

Symmetry , from Greek symmetria , means "agreement in
due proportion, arrangement“. In common language
symmetry refers
in Nature
has fascinated
to a time
of harmonious
and beautiful
and the
man, artists, architects, astronomers, mathematicians,
philosophers and physicists.

The ancient Greeks were obsessed with Symmetry and today
we tend to see symmetry in everything from A – Z, our furniture
to hair-styling .
Like Beauty, Symmetry is also in the eye of the beholder!
Here we present a few exemplary examples of

What is meant by symmetry ?
 Symmetry is the quality of being made up of exactly similar

parts facing each other or around an axis. For instance, the
picture has a line of symmetry through its centre.
 In Physics and Mathematics symmetry is a law or operation

where a physical property or process has an equivalence in
two or more directions.
 Mathematically, symmetry means that one shape becomes

exactly like another when you move it in some way: turn, flip
or slide. For two objects to be symmetrical, they must be the
same size and shape, with one object having a different
orientation from the first. There can also be symmetry in one
object, such as a face.
 Murray Gellmann was awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in

Physics for his work on the classification of elementary
particles using group theory having identified the SU(3)
flavour symmetry of hadrons.

Mathematical Imagery
 The Connection between Mathematics and Art goes back to

several Millennia. The design of great architecturally
palaces, Gothic Cathedrals, cut glass windows, mosaic
tiling has
been created with mathematical symmetries as their
 The Dutch artist M.C. Escher (1898 – 1972)

is “an orderly man who made inexhaustibly
extraordinary things”, says The Guardian,
in connection with “The Amazing World of
M.C. Escher” (Scottish National Gallery of
Modern Art, 27 June – 27 Sep. 2015): an
exhibition of > 100 prints and drawings of
Escher, from the Geemeentemuseum, The Hague, NL.

Axis of symmetry
 An axis of symmetry divides the object into exactly two

halves such that each half is a perfect reflection of the
other – the object can be folded along the line of axis
and the two halves overlap exactly. Most of the living
species have bilateral symmetry.
 Regular 2-D shapes have the same number of

symmetries as their sides. For example :






d. give rise to 12 symmetries.D) are related to the subset of 24 (out of the 6!) permutations of a. . e. . . 120 deg. f. The author has shown that the 24 Kummer solutions of the hypergeometric function 2F1(A. f.Tetrahedral & Cubic symmetries  A regular tetrahedron has 12 rotational (or orientation- preserving) symmetries.C. . About each one of the 4 block diagonals.  A cube has 24 symmetries: Let the Cartesian coordinate system pass through the center of the cube. c. rotations are symmetries. giving rise to 12 symmetries. b.B. and a symmetry order of 24 including transformations that combine a reflection and a rotation. . rotations about each of the 3 axis.  Label the sides of the cube as a. g. Then 90 deg.

Exampl .From the Ant to the Zebra ral symmetry is exhibited in all animals including the human.

The symmetry in this ratio makes the Sun and the Moon appear almost the same Size when seen from the earth and therefore.4 M Km Diameter of Moon: 3.474 Km It seems almost impossible for the moon to block the Sun’s light .Symmetry in Nature : spherical Diameter of Sun : 1. makes it possibl for the moon to block the sun Spectacular Solar Eclipse event! When they are aligned. . how is it that there are 5 Solar eclipses every 2 years ? While the Sun’s diameter is ~400 times larger. Then. the Sun is also about 400 times farther away.

Sunset : perfect spherical symmetry .

Scientists are Confident that the galaxy has only 2 major arms called : The Perseus and the . which is a near perfect mirror image of itself has been discovered recently.Symmetry in Nature : galaxy Incredible design of the Milky Way galaxy! The laws of nature are not limited to our Earth alone ! A new section on the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy.

N = Coulomb2/ m2.Force between two electric charges q 1 and q2 is: F12 = K q1 q2 / r2 qp = qe =F21 1. 0 is the permittivity of free space. = 9 x 109 [Nm2 / c2]. c is the velocity of light.6 x 10–19 Coulomb q1 F12 q2 K = 1/0 historically. Newton’s law of gravity between two masses m1 and m2 is G12 = Fg m1 m2 / d2 .

.Rainbows e rainbow created in the mist of Niagara Falls Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650) Rene Descartes’ sketch of how primary and Secondary rainbows are formed.

Amazing floral symmetry Sun Flower .

Amazing floral symmetry Camellia Japonica Chrysanthemu m .

Symmetry types Lily – radial symmetry Hexagonal Jelly fish (4way) Septago n Sea star (Pentamerous) Octopus .

.Flowers & Botanical gardens Tulip flower garden Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical garden in Pamplemousses.

Tulips & Tulip Gardens Holland Oregon’s Annual Tulip Fest .

89. The Sunflower has radial symmetry and . 13. 144. … where Fn = Fn-1 + Fn-2 with F0 = F1 = 1. 3. 2. is called a Fibonacci Sequence. 8. 55. 5. 21.Symmetry in flora The sequence 1. 1. 34.

89. 144. 5. … 1. 8. 13. 55. .Symmetry in the cactus The Fibonacci Sequence : 21. 3. 34. 1. 2.

the growth pattern of nautilus allows it to maintain the same shape throughout its whole life. The shell of the nautilus is grown in a “Fibonacci spiral”. like the Nautilus.Symmetry in shells Some animals. . exhibit Fibonacci numbers. The spiral occurs because of the shell’s attempt to maintain the same proportional shape as it grows outward. Unlike in humans.

and the perfect symmetry in body-shape and repeated patterns of their feathers! . until he formulate h theory of sexual selection). whenever I ga at it . large size.Symmetry in Birds Most animals have bilateral Symmetry. down a central line The Peacock used the whole Symmetry –to-attract –a-mate Darwin (1860) was peeved by its plumes and in a letter wrote that “The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail. Peacocks have the required sexual selection to increase their chances of attracting their ladies – bright colours. makes me sick !” (as it d not fit his concept of survival o the fittest.

Leaves .

Mango Leaves .

General shape Alternate leaves Opposite leaves Leaves in whorls Coconut / Palm Leaf – used for thatching cottage roofs .

Coconut Tree Coconut kernel .Mexican Fan Palm Trees Palm Tree or Washington Palm fruit (arecacae) Palm or Skyscraper. Edible fruits are sweet and taste like dates.

.Symmetry in spider’s web The spider webs (~5000 types) are nearly perfectly circular. with almost equidistant radial supports coming out in the middle and a spiral woven to catch prey. The radial symmetry helps to evenly distribute the force of impact of the prey.

temp. with identical patterns on each of its arms.Symmetry in snowflakes The tiny snowflake is governed by the laws of order.) conditions. This is due to the crystallization of water molecules – water molecules change to a solid state (with weak H-bonds) as each snowflake descends from the Sky experiencing unique atmospheric (humidity. a six-fold radial Symmetry. .

. would leave a gap between the cells since they don’t fit together exactly.Honeycomb symmetry  The honey bees seem to have an Female Queen bee inbuilt knack for geometry.  Other shapes.  Their honeycombs have perfect hexagonal (wall-paper) symmetry.  This perfect shape allows bees to store the largest possible amount of honey while using the least amount of wax.  The skeptics believe that this ingenuity of the bees is by accident – the bees simply make circular cells which due to collapse of the wax becomes a hexagon!  The study of Honey bees is known as Melittology. circles say.

which collectively form the whole. the possibility to bring the whole information at any given moment to every individual becomes impossible. which are already have two walls built. .Honeycomb symmetry  The bee builds the next cell starting on the corner of other cells. Micro-scale generates simple inputs. As the organism gets bigger.  the continuity is necessary for success. This simplicity protects the natural growth of the hive.

thorax and abdomen) three pairs of jointed legs. a three-part body (head. They are among the most diverse groups of animals on the planet. The number of extant species is estimated at between six and ten million. including more than a million described species and representing more than half of all known living organisms.Insects are a class of invertebrates within the arthropod phylum that have a chitinous (horny cover) exoskeleton. and potentially represent over 90% of the differing animal life forms on Earth. Dancefly Long nosed weevil Insects German wasp Mole cricket Emperor gum moth Assassin Bug Bug s . compound eyes and one pair of antennae.

Marine animals .

Butterflies .

Birds Crane Indian Crow Bald eagle American Crow Macaw `Blue’ Bird ? .

are more or less symmetric w.Mirror symmetry in animals Bilateral a sagittal plane which divides the body into left and right halves.r. including humans. . The body is bilaterally symmetric to enable movement – with symmetrical pairs of muscles and skeletal elements (and internal asummetric organs).

It is the axis of symmet Deer with and without horns .Mirror symmetry in animals A vertical line through the cente shows that each side is a mirror ima of the other.

Ferocious ! Tiger Temple in Thailand .

– 1519) Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italiam Polymath : an anatomist. and chronic procrastination. scientist. and writer. painter. sculptor. considered as one of the greatest painters of all time and most diversely talented person who ever lived. Bologna. at Vinci. a notary and peasent girl. engineer. inventor. Much of his early life was spent in the services of Lidovico. He worked in Rome. Born as an illegitimate son of Piero da Vinci. a region of Florence. and Venice and spent his final years under the patronage of King Francois I. Caterina. architect. mathematician. He was educated in the studio of the renowned Florentinian painter Verocchio. musician. . botanist. He was less productive because of his penchant for experiment- ation with new techniques. France. Only 15 paintings of Leonardo which have survived. Leonardo was described as the “Renissance Man”.

 Besides painting and sculpting. helicopter and the tank (a large armoured fighting vehicle). mathematics. The Vitruvian Man and Lady with an Ermine are his notable works and he is regarded as one of the most diversely talented persons ever to have lived in the world. (ichnology  study of plant and animal traces)  He is credited with the inventions of the parachute. botany. astronomy. science.Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) Renaissance Florentine – Italian Polymath  Renowned for diverse fields of Arts and Sciences. music.  He is referred to as the Father of paleontology. ichnology and architecture. The last Supper. .  Mona Lisa. engineering. invention. and cartography. geology. writing. history. anatomy. he is known for his work in the areas of architecture.

Leonardo as an Engineer had ideas vastly ahead of his times. a calculator.  As a Scientist. Solar Power. made unheralded entry into manufacturing. he greatly advanced the state of knowledge in the fields of Anatomy. These were not feasible in his times. the double hull. He conceptualized a Helicopter. Optics and hydrodynamics. . His smaller inventions: an automated bobbin winder. and the outline of a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics. Civil Engineering. a Tank. a machine to test the tensile strength of a wire.

1520 .Most famous works of Leonardo da Vinci Mona Lisa  Enigmatic smile ! c. 1503-05  Self portrait of Leonardo da Vinci The Last Supper .

Mona Lisa at the Louvre. France .

Female head (The Lady of the Dishevelled Hair) Drawing of a Womans Torso Drawings of Water Lifting The Virgin and Child with St Anne c. 1510 .

Vitruvian Man .

To the Left : Automobile design  Giant Crossbow .Above : Assault Chariot with Scythes.

Above: The Galloping rider  Flying Machine .Group of Riders in the Battle of Angiari 1503 – 1504.

Da Vinci’s : Cannons Horse Helicopter Battle of Anghiari Parabolic Compass Flight of Birds .

c. cartography. and is widely considered one of the greatest painters . and architecture. literature. sculpting and writing. 1483. music. science. astronomy. Leonardo Vinci or simply Leonardo (15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519). geology. mathematics. history. inventions. ichnology. Head of a Girl architecture. painting. botany. He has been variously called the father of palaeontology. engineering. Head ofda a Condottieri Head of a Man was an Italian polymath whose areas of interest included anatomy .

.Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of the blood vessels – the arteries and the veins and the Heart.

Tiling : Square. Hexagonal. Rectangular. Moroccan .

is not a divisor of 360°. The best known packing  of equal-sized regular pentagons on a plane is The Pentagon. Headquarters of the US Dept of Defence a double . the angle measure of a whole turn. a pentagonal tiling is a tiling of the plane where each individual piece is in the shape of a pentagon.In geometry. 108°. A regular pentagonal tiling on the Euclidean plane  is impossible because the internal angle of a regular pentagon.

4 and 6 sides. but it was long believed that it was impossible to fill an area with 5-fold symmetry.Penrose Tiling and Phi Tiling in 5-fold symmetry was thought impossible! Areas can be filled completely and symmetrically with tiles of 3. as shown below: 3 sides 4 sides 5 sides leaves gaps 6 sides .

He received several prizes / awards. only in recent times. including the 1988 Wolf Prize for physics. not one are necessary and sufficient to tile a plane. Penrose is known. with Stephen Hawking for . He showed that two tiles. for his contributions to general relativity and cosmology.Roger Penrose (1931) and pentagonal tiling  Roger Penrose solved the pentagonal tiling problem. in particular.

the two tiles may not be ." respectively. in particular. In strict Penrose tiling. illustrated above. These two tiles. the tiles must be placed in such a way that the colored markings agree. are called the "kite" and "dart.The Penrose tiles are a pair of shapes that tile the plane only aperiodically (when the markings are constrained to match at borders).

14 pentagonal tile shapes for tiling the plane + square tiles . .