Saturday, 22 May 2010


Symmetry is one element of beauty, and in the book I describe how a physicist attempted to locate all particles on a grid consisting of the most symmetrical object conceivable – and failed. Does this failure disprove the coinherence of beauty and truth? Hardly. For in fact a slight departure from symmetry can be even more beautiful. This is true at many levels. In the early moments of the big bang, if matter and antimatter had been exactly balanced the universe would have destroyed itself. I recently read of some research into the shape of the neutron, which at present appears perfectly symmetrical, having an electric charge (or more precisely “electric dipole moment”) of zero. Researchers hope to find some slight asymmetry in order to explain the excess of matter over antimatter which enables us to exist. Zero is the most symmetrical of numbers but not the most beautiful, and existence is always a departure from it. The pattern of human love has been described by Angelo Scola in terms of “asymmetrical reciprocity”. Thus a theologian might say that the tension of asymmetry runs right the way through creation, from top to bottom, as the mark of the Creator, and is only resolved by the Trinity in a way that eternally preserves difference within unity.

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