As a spectroscopist and inorganic chemist, I’m constantly encountering symmetry and its effects. From the balanced shapes of molecules to the bilateral formation of our own bodies, nature is full of symmetry that informs its function and behavior. In addition to symmetry in physical space, the kind with which we are most familiar, there is also symmetry in the dimension of time. Some examples are rather uninteresting from an “elegant universe” perspective: the cycles of alternating current exhibit high symmetry, but hide under the surface of our everyday electronics.
The cycles of seasons, on the other hand, have been on my mind lately as the North Country oscillates rapidly between spring and winter. (One day on, one day off.) In those cycles, I’ve found a strange symmetry. Though most of the year lacks reflection symmetry (autumn is obviously different from spring), there’s a point where late fall lines up perfectly with early spring—the world is cold and still and brown, and I can pretend for a moment that the winter never happened.