Reflection symmetry

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Figures with the axes of symmetry drawn in. The figure with no axes is asymmetric. Symmetry.png
Figures with the axes of symmetry drawn in. The figure with no axes is asymmetric.

In mathematics, reflection symmetry, line symmetry, mirror symmetry, or mirror-image symmetry is symmetry with respect to a reflection. That is, a figure which does not change upon undergoing a reflection has reflectional symmetry.


In 2D there is a line/axis of symmetry, in 3D a plane of symmetry. An object or figure which is indistinguishable from its transformed image is called mirror symmetric. In conclusion, a line of symmetry splits the shape in half and those halves should be identical.

Symmetric function

A normal distribution bell curve is an example symmetric function Empirical Rule.PNG
A normal distribution bell curve is an example symmetric function

In formal terms, a mathematical object is symmetric with respect to a given operation such as reflection, rotation or translation, if, when applied to the object, this operation preserves some property of the object. [1] The set of operations that preserve a given property of the object form a group. Two objects are symmetric to each other with respect to a given group of operations if one is obtained from the other by some of the operations (and vice versa).

The symmetric function of a two-dimensional figure is a line such that, for each perpendicular constructed, if the perpendicular intersects the figure at a distance 'd' from the axis along the perpendicular, then there exists another intersection of the shape and the perpendicular, at the same distance 'd' from the axis, in the opposite direction along the perpendicular.

Another way to think about the symmetric function is that if the shape were to be folded in half over the axis, the two halves would be identical: the two halves are each other's mirror images. [1]

Thus a square has four axes of symmetry, because there are four different ways to fold it and have the edges all match. A circle has infinitely many axes of symmetry.

Symmetric geometrical shapes

2D shapes w/reflective symmetry
Isosceles trapezoid.svg GeometricKite.svg
isosceles trapezoid and kite
Hexagon p2 symmetry.png Hexagon d3 symmetry.png
Octagon p2 symmetry.png Octagon d2 symmetry.png

Triangles with reflection symmetry are isosceles. Quadrilaterals with reflection symmetry are kites, (concave) deltoids, rhombi, [2] and isosceles trapezoids. All even-sided polygons have two simple reflective forms, one with lines of reflections through vertices, and one through edges.

For an arbitrary shape, the axiality of the shape measures how close it is to being bilaterally symmetric. It equals 1 for shapes with reflection symmetry, and between 2/3 and 1 for any convex shape.

Advanced types of reflection symmetry

For more general types of reflection there are correspondingly more general types of reflection symmetry. For example:

In nature

Many animals, such as this spider crab Maja crispata, are bilaterally symmetric. Maja crispata (Maia verrucosa) - Museo Civico di Storia Naturale Giacomo Doria - Genoa, Italy - DSC03222 Cropped.JPG
Many animals, such as this spider crab Maja crispata , are bilaterally symmetric.

Animals that are bilaterally symmetric have reflection symmetry in the sagittal plane, which divides the body vertically into left and right halves, with one of each sense organ and limb pair on either side. Most animals are bilaterally symmetric, likely because this supports forward movement and streamlining. [3] [4] [5] [6]

In architecture

Mirror symmetry is often used in architecture, as in the facade of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, 1470. Santa Maria Novella.jpg
Mirror symmetry is often used in architecture, as in the facade of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, 1470.

Mirror symmetry is often used in architecture, as in the facade of Santa Maria Novella, Florence. [7] It is also found in the design of ancient structures such as Stonehenge. [8] Symmetry was a core element in some styles of architecture, such as Palladianism. [9]

See also

Related Research Articles

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A (symmetric) n-gonal bipyramid or dipyramid is a polyhedron formed by joining an n-gonal pyramid and its mirror image base-to-base. An n-gonal bipyramid has 2n triangle faces, 3n edges, and 2 + n vertices.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Symmetry group</span> Group of transformations under which the object is invariant

In group theory, the symmetry group of a geometric object is the group of all transformations under which the object is invariant, endowed with the group operation of composition. Such a transformation is an invertible mapping of the ambient space which takes the object to itself, and which preserves all the relevant structure of the object. A frequent notation for the symmetry group of an object X is G = Sym(X).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Symmetry</span> Mathematical invariance under transformations

Symmetry in everyday language refers to a sense of harmonious and beautiful proportion and balance. In mathematics, "symmetry" has a more precise definition, and is usually used to refer to an object that is invariant under some transformations; including translation, reflection, rotation or scaling. Although these two meanings of "symmetry" can sometimes be told apart, they are intricately related, and hence are discussed together in this article.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kite (geometry)</span> Quadrilateral symmetric across a diagonal

In Euclidean geometry, a kite is a quadrilateral with reflection symmetry across a diagonal. Because of this symmetry, a kite has two equal angles and two pairs of adjacent equal-length sides. Kites are also known as deltoids, but the word deltoid may also refer to a deltoid curve, an unrelated geometric object sometimes studied in connection with quadrilaterals. A kite may also be called a dart, particularly if it is not convex.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mirror image</span> Reflected duplication of an object

A mirror image is a reflected duplication of an object that appears almost identical, but is reversed in the direction perpendicular to the mirror surface. As an optical effect it results from reflection off from substances such as a mirror or water. It is also a concept in geometry and can be used as a conceptualization process for 3-D structures.

In geometry, an improper rotation, also called rotation-reflection, rotoreflection,rotary reflection, or rotoinversion is an isometry in Euclidean space that is a combination of a rotation about an axis and a reflection in a plane perpendicular to that axis. Reflection and inversion are each special case of improper rotation. Any improper rotation is an affine transformation and, in cases that keep the coordinate origin fixed, a linear transformation. It is used as a symmetry operation in the context of geometric symmetry, molecular symmetry and crystallography, where an object that is unchanged by a combination of rotation and reflection is said to have improper rotation symmetry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wallpaper group</span> Classification of a two-dimensional repetitive pattern

A wallpaper is a mathematical object covering a whole Euclidean plane by repeating a motif indefinitely, in manner that certain isometries keep the drawing unchanged. To a given wallpaper there corresponds a group of such congruent transformations, with function composition as the group operation. Thus, a wallpaper group is in a mathematical classification of a two‑dimensional repetitive pattern, based on the symmetries in the pattern. Such patterns occur frequently in architecture and decorative art, especially in textiles, tessellations and tiles as well as wallpaper.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glide reflection</span> Symmetry operation combining reflection across and translation along an axis

In 2-dimensional geometry, a glide reflection is a symmetry operation that consists of a reflection over a line and then translation along that line, combined into a single operation. The intermediate step between reflection and translation can look different from the starting configuration, so objects with glide symmetry are in general, not symmetrical under reflection alone. In group theory, the glide plane is classified as a type of opposite isometry of the Euclidean plane.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rotational symmetry</span> Symmetry (something looking the same) under rotation

Rotational symmetry, also known as radial symmetry in geometry, is the property a shape has when it looks the same after some rotation by a partial turn. An object's degree of rotational symmetry is the number of distinct orientations in which it looks exactly the same for each rotation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Floral symmetry</span> Shape of flowers

Floral symmetry describes whether, and how, a flower, in particular its perianth, can be divided into two or more identical or mirror-image parts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Symmetry in biology</span> Geometric symmetry in living beings

Symmetry in biology refers to the symmetry observed in organisms, including plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria. External symmetry can be easily seen by just looking at an organism. For example, take the face of a human being which has a plane of symmetry down its centre, or a pine cone with a clear symmetrical spiral pattern. Internal features can also show symmetry, for example the tubes in the human body which are cylindrical and have several planes of symmetry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chirality (mathematics)</span> Property of an object that is not congruent to its mirror image

In geometry, a figure is chiral if it is not identical to its mirror image, or, more precisely, if it cannot be mapped to its mirror image by rotations and translations alone. An object that is not chiral is said to be achiral.

In geometry, a point group in three dimensions is an isometry group in three dimensions that leaves the origin fixed, or correspondingly, an isometry group of a sphere. It is a subgroup of the orthogonal group O(3), the group of all isometries that leave the origin fixed, or correspondingly, the group of orthogonal matrices. O(3) itself is a subgroup of the Euclidean group E(3) of all isometries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cyclic symmetry in three dimensions</span>

In three dimensional geometry, there are four infinite series of point groups in three dimensions (n≥1) with n-fold rotational or reflectional symmetry about one axis that does not change the object.

A fixed point of an isometry group is a point that is a fixed point for every isometry in the group. For any isometry group in Euclidean space the set of fixed points is either empty or an affine space.

In chemistry and crystallography, a symmetry element is a point, line, or plane about which symmetry operations can take place. In particular, a symmetry element can be a mirror plane, an axis of rotation, or a center of inversion. For an object such as a molecule or a crystal, a symmetry element corresponds to a set of symmetry operations, which are the rigid transformations employing the symmetry element that leave the object unchanged. The set containing these operations form one of the symmetry groups of the object. The elements of this symmetry group should not to be confused with the "symmetry element" itself. Loosely, a symmetry element is the geometric set of fixed points of a symmetry operation. For example, for rotation about an axis, the points on the axis do not move and in a reflection the points that remain unchanged make up a plane of symmetry.

In group theory, geometry, representation theory and molecular symmetry, a symmetry operation is a transformation of an object that leaves an object looking the same after it has been carried out. For example, as transformations of an object in space, rotations, reflections and inversions are all symmetry operations. Such symmetry operations are performed with respect to symmetry elements. In the context of molecular symmetry, a symmetry operation is a permutation of atoms such that the molecule or crystal is transformed into a state indistinguishable from the starting state. Two basic facts follow from this definition, which emphasizes its usefulness.

  1. Physical properties must be invariant with respect to symmetry operations.
  2. Symmetry operations can be collected together in groups which are isomorphic to permutation groups.
<span class="mw-page-title-main">Point reflection</span> Geometric symmetry operation

In geometry, a point reflection is a type of isometry of Euclidean space. An object that is invariant under a point reflection is said to possess point symmetry; if it is invariant under point reflection through its center, it is said to possess central symmetry or to be centrally symmetric.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rep-tile</span> Shape subdivided into copies of itself

In the geometry of tessellations, a rep-tile or reptile is a shape that can be dissected into smaller copies of the same shape. The term was coined as a pun on animal reptiles by recreational mathematician Solomon W. Golomb and popularized by Martin Gardner in his "Mathematical Games" column in the May 1963 issue of Scientific American. In 2012 a generalization of rep-tiles called self-tiling tile sets was introduced by Lee Sallows in Mathematics Magazine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Symmetry (geometry)</span>

In geometry, an object has symmetry if there is an operation or transformation that maps the figure/object onto itself. Thus, a symmetry can be thought of as an immunity to change. For instance, a circle rotated about its center will have the same shape and size as the original circle, as all points before and after the transform would be indistinguishable. A circle is thus said to be symmetric under rotation or to have rotational symmetry. If the isometry is the reflection of a plane figure about a line, then the figure is said to have reflectional symmetry or line symmetry; it is also possible for a figure/object to have more than one line of symmetry.


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  2. Gullberg, Jan (1997). Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers . W. W. Norton. pp.  394–395. ISBN   0-393-04002-X.
  3. Valentine, James W. "Bilateria". AccessScience. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
  4. "Bilateral symmetry". Natural History Museum. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  5. Finnerty, John R. (2005). "Did internal transport, rather than directed locomotion, favor the evolution of bilateral symmetry in animals?" (PDF). BioEssays. 27 (11): 1174–1180. doi:10.1002/bies.20299. PMID   16237677.
  6. "Bilateral (left/right) symmetry". Berkeley. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  7. Tavernor, Robert (1998). On Alberti and the Art of Building. Yale University Press. pp. 102–106. ISBN   978-0-300-07615-8. More accurate surveys indicate that the facade lacks a precise symmetry, but there can be little doubt that Alberti intended the composition of number and geometry to be regarded as perfect. The facade fits within a square of 60 Florentine braccia
  8. Johnson, Anthony (2008). Solving Stonehenge: The New Key to an Ancient Enigma. Thames & Hudson.
  9. Waters, Suzanne. "Palladianism". Royal Institution of British Architects. Retrieved 29 October 2015.