Thursday, January 04, 2007

Asymmetry In Its Simplest State

Rhythmic repetitions of symmetrical units seem to be everywhere we turn in nature, be it on the cosmic or atomic level. The vision of symmetry, as far as we have gone, may convey the impression of a rather rigid state of affairs. Actually, symmetry in the absolute sense of the term never occurs in nature. There is always some deviation; nature avoids strict symmetry. Therefore, the crystallographer will say that a particular crystal’s structure tends towards an “ideal” symmetrical figure. He refers to the actual crystal as a “distortion” of the ideal geometric figure. It is difficult to understand why the crystallographer continues to resort to the old Classical jargon of Idealism, to describe the difference between his mathematically absolute figure and the actual crystal of nature. Factually, the ideal geometric figure is a distortion of the natural crystal, not the other way around. . . . The question arises then whether or not the term symmetry is a misnomer; whether what we call symmetry is merely asymmetry in its simplest state. If this were so, then all order would be a question of degrees and kinds of asymmetry.

Charles Biederman
The New Cezanne

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