Symmetry, Chemistry and Escher's Tiles

Bruce D. Martin and Reza Sarhangi
Bridges: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science (1998)
Pages 245–254


When the first cave-woman pressed an olive or nut, she got an oil that wouldn't mix with water. Why? One reason is because the molecules' shapes have different symmetries. In brief, an asymmetrical molecule is better able to form a dipole, which permits dipole-dipole intermolecular attractions. So, chemical reality is "somehow" related to mathematical symmetry. This by itself is exciting to those interested in chemistry, but others may need more visual examples. People who may feel intimidated by or bored with mathematical theories of groups will be drawn in to the world of symmetry in architectural tiles and in art using the ideas expressed in the art of M. C. Escher.