Examples of Symmetry from Nature. Click on the green arrow to return to the previous page

A dictionary definition of symmetry might be: "the quality of being made up of exactly similar parts facing each other or around an axis". Such a description applies to many pollen grains as shown on my website but also to a myriad of objects found in the natural world, examples being a snowflake and a flower. As a young microscopist, I was amazed at the number of natural objects that exhibited symmetry at the tiniest level such as diatoms and radiolaria and sought to procure and examine these having the good fortune to be able to do so using a scanning electron microscope. Victorian microscopists spent hours using light microscopes to arrange diatoms into patterns. The much greater resolving power of an electron microscope allows you to see the most exquisite detail of individual diatoms. A search using google will reveal thousands of images of these delicate structures. There is obviously great mathematical detail inherent in the creation of these structures and a search reveals the mysterious Fibonacci numbers associated with spiral patterns in nature such as the chambers of a Nautilus shell. Symmetry and self similarity then leads the reader to study the fractal structure of nature and a natural object displaying this is Romanian Brocolli. Another form of natural symmetry occurs in self configuring systems and Alan Turing was the first person to apply mathematical concepts to biological subjects (Morphogenesis). Another example of where order and symmetry arises in chemical systems is the famous Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction where repeating patterns of waves of oxidation propagate regularly from a seeming disordered mixture of chemicals.Click on the blue BZ link to watch a video clip of the reaction.