Symmetry on the Radio

Symmetry is an important topic in math.  You’ll learn all about it in Dr. Jon Kujawa’s abstract algebra class this year.  Groups are really just the collection of symmetries of some interesting object.  For example, we learned that an even function is one which is symmetric about the y-axis.  The fact that the function has that symmetry should mean (and it does!) that the function has nice properties.  The fact that sin(x) is even and also has the symmetry that it is unchanged by a horizontal shift of 2\pi radians means that it’s doubly interesting!

There has been research done which suggests that one thing which makes a person attractive to other people is if their face is highly symmetric.   For example, consider Honest Abe:

Below is what Lincoln saw in the mirror every morning:

A bit strange looking, huh?  Not a very symmetric looking fellow.  Although we suppose Mary Todd Lincoln would have disagreed…

All of this is to say that there is a fantastic radio show called RadioLab on our local public radio station, KGOU,  and this Sunday at noon they’re having a program called “Desperately Seeking Symmetry” (that’s where the Lincoln photos are from).   Fortunately, anyone outside the KGOU listening area can listen to it whenever you want direct from the RadioLab website (this and every show is available for free download!).  Check it out!

P.S.  We’ll be disappointed if Dr. Kujawa doesn’t at least mention the amazing photographs of snowflakes done by Wilson Bentley over one hundred years ago:

A few of Wilson Bentley's amazing photos.