Symmetries: A Zine about Science & The Arts

Lily’s latest Symmetries Zine

Symmetries is a zine all about the interconnections between physics and the arts. As a full time physicist and part time illustrator, I have always been passionate about communicating the similarities between physics and the arts. Zines are typically small-circulation self-published works that convey a niche topic – I thought that a zine would be the perfect medium for bringing this topic to light.

I called the zine ‘Symmetries’ as the symmetries of the natural world are evident all through physics, biology, nature and the arts. In nature, mirror symmetry is apparent in the wings of butterflies and the veins of leaves, as well as many other examples. Similarly, artists such as Frida Kahlo used symmetry in their artwork to convey relationships and balance within the composition. In architecture and design, frontal symmetry and axial symmetry have been used by architects such as Norman Foster to give a sense of calmness or strength. Symmetry is also important in physics. In the early 1900s, German mathematician Emmy Noether developed and proved a mathematical theory on physical symmetries, known as Noether’s Theorem, which has gone on to have important consequences in theoretical physics. The theory states:

“Every differentiable symmetry of the action of a physical system has a corresponding conservation law.”

It sounds complex, but it leads to some of the most important conservation laws not just in physics, but that govern the natural world as we understand it. If a system behaves the same no matter it’s orientation in space, then the system has rotational symmetry and angular momentum must be conserved for this system. Similarly, if a system remains the same irrespective of its position in time, then the system has time symmetry and the energy of the system is conserved. Therefore, Noether’s theorem provides a neat explanation for the existence of energy conservation, a law of physics that many other laws hinge on and that explains many physical phenomena that we observe in the world that we live in. I’ve always been fascinated by the way symmetries are evident in seemingly all aspects of science and the arts, and it was for this reason that I decided it would a good starting point for my zine.

Being a female physicist, I’ve always had a keen interest in other women who have made significant contributions to science and the arts. One of my heroes in this regard is the actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr, who has a feature in the zine. Born in Austria in 1913, Lamarr had a successful Hollywood career, starring in films such as Boom Town (1940) and Samson and Delilah (1949). Alongside this, Lamarr was inquisitive about science and technology, despite no formal training. During World War II, Lamarr worked alongside George Antheil to develop a device that could create a frequency-hopping signal for radio-controlled torpedoes, so that they couldn’t be jammed or set off course. Although the device was not used by the US Navy during World War II, it was finally implemented into Navy ships during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. In fact, Lamarr and Antheil’s invention went on to help the development of WiFi and Bluetooth technologies. Hedy Lamarr has therefore always been a real inspiration for me, as someone who truly bridged the gap between science and the arts.

Symmetries is available now from my Etsy store, Lily in Space Designs ( You can also win one of three copies by entering the giveaway running over on ScienceGrrl’s Twitter on 22nd July 2018.

This is a guest post by Lily Clarke, who has recently completed an MPhys at York University. Her previous post, on the link between Physics and The Arts and how this has influenced her, can be found here.