Symmetry and Aesthetics in Contemporary Physics

An experimental seminar to explore the connections between contemporary physics, math, and fine arts
CS 10, Section 1

Fridays, 1:00 PM - 3:50 PM
Room 143, College of Creative Studies

Instructor: Dr. Jatila van der Veen

2225 Broida Hall
(i.e.,"The Planck Zone")
Office hours:
jatila -at-

About this course:

Symmetry, and the search for broken symmetries, guide our understanding of the Laws of Physics. Symmetry and asymmetry are also at the heart of our aesthetic experiences in music, dance, and art. In this interdisciplinary seminar we will study contemporary views of spacetime and cosmology from the viewpoint of Symmetry. We will utilize learning strategies from the arts to develop a deeper understanding of the reality which lies beyond our sensory perception, and which is described by mathematics.

You will meet artists and scientists who are working at the frontiers of their disciplines, and you will have the opportunity to create your own physics work of art.

NOTE: We will have a Physics Art show in the UCSB Library as part of the course. There will be a public reception on the afternoon of the last day of classes, Friday, June 3rd, in Room 1312 of the Library. Starting Monday, June 6th your physics works of art will be on display in the Library for the summer, location tba. SAVE THE DATE! INVITE YOUR FRIENDS!

Required Texts:

  1. Course Reader, available from the AS Notes Window;
  2. Fearful Symmetery by A. Zee, available from the UC bookstore, or Amazon on line.

Links to Related Course Pages

Schedule and Assignments

Lecture slides

Final Project

Links to External Pages of Potential Interest

Research page of Dr. van der Veen
Find out a bit more about your instructor.
A good biography of Professor Emmy Noether,
the person who linked symmetry with physical laws
Home page of Dr. Jean-Pierre Hebert ,
Artist in Residence at the KITP
Official M.C. Escher website
He was obsessed with wallpaper symmetries
Klein Four Group
Waste some imaginary time...
Elizabeth Streb Dance Company
Extreme Action Dance Company
Capacitor Dance Company
Examples of collaborations between scientists and dancers
Some Symmetry Teasers
Enjoy some problems for fun.
Symmetries in the Alhambra
Famous Islamic monument in Granada, Spain,
example of all (or most) of the 17 wallpaper symmetries
Audification and Sonification of Earthqakes
Examples of ways to listen to earthquakes
by Ryan McGee, PhD student at UCSB and D.V.Rogers, Australia