Friday, July 29, 2005

Twisted beauty

I have two morning glory plants here in the window of my studio. My wife has two more in the house. All spiral up their poles in a right-handed sense. It is eerie that the morning glory knows which way to twist. But, of course, it doesn't "know." It is driven up its pole by internal asymmetries. Life on earth uses left-handed amino acids almost exclusively. Right-handed DNA is all the rule. Why do the internal organs of our bodies have the same twist? Why, for that matter, do we live in a universe that is exclusively matter? Why didn't equal quantities of matter and antimatter annihilate each other exactly in the earliest moments of creation? The physicists tell us that symmetry and the breaking of symmetry are at the very heart of understanding why the universe exists. The symmetrical leaves and blossom of the morning glory and the asymmetrical corkscrewing of its vine hint at something deep beyond our knowing.