Thursday, May 15, 2014

No Symmetry in Nature

What happens if you take a perfect symmetry and start adding it directly to nature?
Answer, it gets weird pretty quickly.

symmetry in nature

If you were to fold this snowflake at any angle you would see it doesn't have a perfect symmetry to its opposite half.  Symmetry is often attached to the notion of nature but it doesn't seem to exist as perfect.  The word Symmetry is defined by two distinct meanings, the first being a vague sense of harmonious proportion and balance and the second, an exact mathematical "patterned self-similarity."

claude monet

The images above are two rotated versions of a painting by Claude Monet from a series he made on the same part of the River Seine. Although the painting is turned upside down and at 90 degrees to emphasise its symmetry you can clearly see it there, visible but not quite perfect.

So what happens if you take perfect symmetry and start adding it directly to nature?
This is a series of photos of a  Wasp with its symmetry repeated 4 times. Its the same image cycled through with different treatments on each slide.

When you apply symmetry to nature it quickly distorts into something not quite, but exactly like nature.  Your mind knows something is wrong with what you are looking at but there is also a sense of something  just out of reach. 

symmetry appled to nature

It's as though the spirit of the thing you are looking at is trying to make itself manifest. This image looks like a little god and reminds me of Green Man folk tales.  This also works when you apply symmetry  to moving images. Dances and rhythms appear that have the same unusual qualities.

example of an symmetry in nature

With multiple symmetry's things begin to magnify and can in some cases resemble the microscopic world.  Now as yet I haven't found an exact patterned symmetry in any part of nature, that includes mirrored surfaces like water. But Nature has no concern for perfection, perhaps because it's the imperfections in nature that create new forms and possibilities. Nature seems to replicate as near a copy of itself on itself as it can and just a small change in that repetition can have enormous consequences on the environment. When time is added to this process nature seems to have its own dance, where change is a constant part of the music it moves to.
It's this dance of change that I am drawn to.

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