While at a restaurant drive-through last week, I encountered a nice lady, maybe a little older than me, who told me … well, I can’t tell you exactly what she told me as it may prove a tad PG-13 for the Quay County Sun. Suffice it to say she made a flattering comment about my physical appearance, which brightened my day. At least it did until I drove away, thought back to the gracious compliment and realized, “Oh, she got me from the left.”
I’m sure you’ve heard people say things like “Be sure to get my good side” as they turn that side of their faces to greet the camera. You may have thought the notion of a “good side” is a myth borne of vanity. I’m not so sure, myself.
I definitely have my good side and a not-as-good side, and like a good reporter I have evidence to back this claim. This is made most obvious by a discrepancy between my eyes. My left eye is a sort of light emerald green that reflects pleasantly in the light of the sun like an apple-flavored Jolly Rancher. My right eye is a dull tobacco brown with haphazard patches of sewer green that must be there simply to confuse the observer.
Observed symmetry is an essential element to all things harmonious and aesthetically pleasing, in art, fashion, music, architecture, nature, you name it. A perfect circle holds our attention because it demonstrates symmetry from any point where we choose to divide it.
A sort of quantum symmetry known as fractal symmetry is a demonstration of self-similarity at varying magnifications. I know that sounds a little weird, but the concept is very basic and helps elucidate the awe we experience when beholding the wonders of nature. Trees are the best example. If you imagine the shape of a tree in its entirety, and then focus on the image of a single branch from that tree, you will notice how the two shapes are virtually the same.
If you zoom in further, and imagine a single leaf from the tree branch, you will see the shape repeat itself again. The vascular tissue of a leaf, its collection of veins, runs from its base to its edges like skinny, outstretched fingers in the same fashion the tree’s trunk, limbs and branches provide structure and a system of nutrient transportation to the tree structure as a whole. Biological structures in humans, like hair and our own vascular system, reflect this same pattern of self-similarity.
But fear not if you notice asymmetry in your own personal appearance as body parts that come in pairs (like shoulders, nostrils and ears) will likely contain some level of inequality in size, even if the asymmetry is not noticeable. Of course, we can only demonstrate symmetry to the degree we can measure or quantify comparisons between two things, so at some point we really don’t know if any structure is truly symmetrical.
Except for Nicole Kidman’s face, which scientists have proven to be symmetrical at the subatomic level. That’s just a joke.
So while you go outside to find nature’s bountiful patterns, and I snap a new byline photo of my “good side,” remember that any old mug is made prettier with a smile.