Visual symmetry

Visual symmetry

Magdolna Hatgittai and Istvan Hargittai

Singapore: World Scientific 2009 | 234pp | ?36.00 (HB)

ISBN 9789812835314

Reviewed by John Fletcher 

The Hargittais, from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics in Hungary, have written many books on the subject of symmetry, for example In our own image: personal symmetry in discovery  (2000; ISBN 9780306460913) and Symmetry through the eyes of a chemist (2009; ISBN 9781402056277). 


This beautifully colourful coffee-table book would make an excellent Christmas present for anyone interested in symmetry or beauty in nature. There are almost more pictures than words and the images are left in many cases to speak for themselves. 

We are taken on a tour of the various forms of symmetry such as mirror symmetry, rotational symmetry and helical symmetry, and in each case we are shown examples from molecules and crystals to the natural world and man-made structures and objects. We are shown examples of: mirror symmetry in flowers, animal faces and architecture; rotational symmetry in company logos and propellers; and helical symmetry in DNA-inspired sculptures, sea shells staircases and flowers. 

There are also chapters on chirality, crystals and polyhedra which will particularly interest chemist readers. 

This is a wonderful book to dip into and marvel at how the authors had the eyes to see symmetry elements in such ordinary things as railings and car hub caps and the vision to photograph them. Since reading the book I have found myself looking at things through different eyes and spotting elements of symmetry all around me.