By David Powdrell
So here’s the deal…I’m captivated by symmetry in nature; dragonfly wings, mushroom caps, a flowering dandelion, and sea urchin shells. As a stroke survivor, maybe the search for symmetry is the left side of my brain trying to put more logic and order back into the world. Whatever it is, I get a kick out of finding random pockets of symmetry and photographing it as I stroll through life.
A couple of things I’ve discovered while studying symmetry: Symmetry creates a sense of harmony, proportion, and balance. It’s used in mathematics, logic, physics, biology, chemistry, psychology and neuroscience. But it’s also a powerful tool in the arts. Most every significant piece of architecture celebrates symmetry. Successful songwriters and composers incorporate symmetrical concepts in their work.
Symmetry is a simple idea that states when we move one shape, via turning or flipping or sliding it, it becomes identical to the other side.
Symmetry comes from the Greek word, which implies “to measure together”. Any two parts of anything that are identical are symmetrical.
In nature, symmetry is everywhere. In a paper published in 2022 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers analyzed thousands of protein complexes and RNA structures as well as a model network of molecules that control how genes switch on and off. They discovered that evolution tends toward symmetry because the instructions to produce symmetry are easier to embed in genetic code and follow. “Work smarter, not harder” is the takeaway.
As we all race around in our busy day, I hope you’ll find a minute or two to explore, discover, ponder and appreciate the simple pleasure of symmetry in nature, in architecture, and in your life. Take a peek over your shoulder and see if you see an interesting building or listen to a favorite song and see if you hear the symmetry. It really is fascinating, calming, and beautiful.