Science and art are not necessarily separate Universes, they can intersect at certain points, and symmetry is one of them. This is the essence of the public lecture by Assoc. Prof. Leandar Litov, head of the Bulgarian team at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN), which aroused the interest of dozens of people and made the Sofia University’s New Conference Hall overflow.
Symmetry is a Greek word that means “measuring together”. It is an aesthetic issue for the artists, but for the physicists it’s a key to deciphering the Universe, the way it began and the reason for its expansion. “In order to study a system, it’s important to formulate its symmetry”, said Assoc. Prof. Litov. “But symmetry cannot explain everything, so it’s necessary to know asymmetry, too”. Assoc. Prof. Litov’s lecture introduced the audience to the elementary particles, the building blocks of our world. They are only 12, six quarks and six leptons. He also talked about the Higgs boson (which was discovered with the contribution of Bulgarian scientists at CERN) and the vacuum which has no symmetry. On the other hand, Assoc. Pro. Litov pointed out that there are abstract symmetries in some equations and in music. To illustrate a musical symmetry, the physicist brought to mind some of Bach’s canons which can be rendered through mathematical formulae. Assoc. Prof. Litov dealt with symmetry in nature, too. He showed that crystals, snowflakes, and butterfly wings are perfectly symmetric. The scientist concluded by warning that we cannot equate symmetry and beauty. We interpret beauty and ugliness through different parts of our brains. Practice shows, however, that we feel more sympathy towards asymmetry.