Anti Gravity: Diamond Reflections; April 1999; Scientific American Magazine; by Mirsky; 1 Page(s)
Who better than Roald Hoffmann to share my symmetry theory with, I thought. Hoffmann, professor of chemistry at Cornell University, is one of symmetry's great mavens. His Nobel Prize was for showing that symmetry relations play a fundamental role in chemical reactions. My particular symmetry theory was less magnitudinous, but I thought he might enjoy it.
The idea came in a blinding moment of insight last fall, the kind of epiphany that caused Archimedes to shout from his tub, "Give me a place to stand, and I will take a shower!" Symmetry was behind baseball's subtlety and complexity, I realized. Football and basketball, for example, have a simple spatial symmetry. The playing areas are bilaterally symmetrical, and the teams are of equal numbers. But in baseball, the symmetry is temporal: teams alternate their use of the same space. And symmetry is broken in the numbers of players-always nine on defense, anywhere from one to four at any time on offense. These conditions of symmetry, I argued to Hoffmann, give baseball its depth and texture. He listened patiently. Then he squinted slightly and threw me an exploding, knee-high slider. "But it's so slow," he said.