TED Conversations

Saidi Ngutu

Water, Sanitation and Environmental Engineer, Netwas International

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Why are man-made creations so symmetrical?

Why is this world so symmetrical, have you ever thought about it? Nature and all man-made things have to be symmetrical. Did 'God' have an obsession with symmetry which has translated to everything we create? Is it because our minds, symmetrical in nature, can only understand objects in symmetry?

This idea has troubled and puzzles me everywhere I turn. As i write this, my laptop, my phone the plate next to me, the bottle of coke on my table all this objects are so symmetrical yet each unique in its own way serving a different purpose. Maybe something beyond us created this universe of things so symmetrical that's why we are obsessed with perfection, thrive in order, and relate to the normal of symmetry.

I am quite new at TED and was wondering if anyone has ever explored this peculiar existence that cuts through nature and the man-made objects.

Topics: philosophy

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    Oct 16 2012: From an engineering perspective, symmetry is easier to deal with. Asymmetry - at least as it pertains to structures - is always a little more difficult and more time consuming to address.

    If you think about objects from the perspective of stability, the most stable objects / structures are symmetrical. Think of the fact that the planets are (basically) spheres. If you have ever seen salt in its natural state, its structure is cubic. Cubes, spheres, cylinders, pyramids - all stable structures.
    • Oct 16 2012: If from an engineering perspective easier to deal with, why most people do not like symmetrical objects?
      For example, houses, shopping malls etc. If something is only symmetrical why many people say it is ordinary? But when there is an assymetrical objecs with symmetrical objects people like them?
      Is it possible to say that mauntains are also called stable? What do you mean by perspectiv of stability?
      Then, how about rocks?
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        Oct 17 2012: With regard to you first question, I can only speculate. I was not aware that MOST people don't like symmetrical objects.

        I suppose asymmetry can be more interesting. And, with regard to buildings, engineering is only 1 factor. Other things come into play like architechture, aesthetics, "curb appeal", the ability to sell something interesting, etc.
        Asymmetry can be dealt with in Engineering, it's just a bit more difficult.

        I suppose mountains are stable. Roughly speaking, you might think of them like pyramids (as I mentioned above).

        By stability, I meant that natural forces are not tending to re-shape or reform the objects into another shape. For example, the planets are going to remain approximately spherical.

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