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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Structure and Symmetry: The Structure and Properties of Mildly-broken Symmetries - Workshop

4th October 2017, 11:30 to 5th October 2017, 15:00, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University

‘Mildly broken symmetry’ appears much less understood and studied compared to symmetry itself. The terminologies symmetry and asymmetry grossly oversimplify reality and the choice of 'mildly broke or near symmetry' was purposefully chosen to make this distinction from symmetry and asymmetry.

Quantifying near-symmetry is a challenge and has purposefully been chosen as the issue to be addressed in the first workshop in a series of three Having considered research questions such as: how can one characterise (including mathematically) near-symmetry structure and why do we find near-symmetry structure attractive, three workshops are planned during the course of 2017/18.

The first workshop Quantifying Near-symmetry workshop takes place on 4 and 5 October 2017 and will consider how can one characterise (including mathematically) near-symmetrical structures. Unlike symmetry, ‘near perfect’ symmetry (rephrased from herein as ‘mildly broken symmetry’) has not been well studied. Whilst there are mathematical problems (such as the fact that the surface of spheres cannot be symmetrically tiled with identical shapes) the aim will be to seek, test and quantify the concept of ‘mildly broken symmetry’ across all disciplines because our attraction to ‘near perfect’ symmetry is ubiquitous. In particular the workshop may enquire whether a general perturbation approach can be applied to underlying symmetries of a base original model in order a better understanding mildly broken symmetry.

A number of external speakers are confirmed for October including: Professor Frank Close, (Physics, Oxford); Professor Ard Louis (Physics, Oxford); Professor Myron Penner (Philosophy, Trinity Western); Dr Iain McGilchrist (Psychiatry, Oxford); Professor Chris McManus (Psychology, UCL); Professor Jonathan Heddle (Biotechnology, Krakow); Professor Alan Goriely (Maths, Oxford).


Wednesday 4 October 2017




Registration and Coffee


Introduction: Tom McLeish


Frank Close (Physics, Oxford): The
Asymmetric Universe - from unstable symmetry to stable unsymmetry




Ard Louis (Physics, Oxford):Does (near) symmetry spontaneously arise from the algorithmic nature of the world?


Amanda Nichols (Chemistry, Oklahoma) "Symmetry, Asymmetry, and the Explanatory Value of Aesthetic Properties Part 1"


Myron Penner (Philosophy, Trinity Western) “Symmetry, Asymmetry, and the Explanatory Value of Aesthetic Properties Part 2"




Panel Discussion




Optional conference dinner at Lebaneat, Durham

Thursday 5 October 2017




Introduction by Markus Hausmann (Psychology, Durham)


Iain McGilchrist (Psychiatry, Oxford) "Asymmetry of the brain and asymmetry of the world"




Chris McManus (Psychology, UCL) "Near symmetry in bodies, brains and art"




Alain Goriely (Maths, Oxford) "Symmetry breaking in biological growth with applications to the brain"


Jonathan Heddle (Biotechnology, Krakow) "TRAPped in Space: Protein Nanocages with Unusual Structures"


Panel Discussion


Refreshments and close

To register on this workshop, please click on the following link;

Register here

For further information contact Professor Tom McLeish ( or Dr Markus Hausmann (

Find the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS)

Institute of Advanced Study
Durham University
Cosin's Hall
Palace Green
Telephone: +44 (0)191 334 2589

Durham City is located in beautiful County Durham, Land of the Prince Bishops, in the North East of England. It can be reached easily by road, rail, air or sea. Durham provides a wonderful base to explore the region as well as other areas of the UK such as Northumberland, the Lake District, Edinburgh, Glasgow, York, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London.

By Road

Durham City centre is only 2 miles from the A1(M). Leave the motorway at Junction 62 on the A690 Durham - Sunderland road and follow signs to Durham City Centre. Durham is 264 miles from London, 187 miles from Birmingham, 125 miles from Edinburgh and 67 miles from York.

There are several express coach services daily from most major cities. Durham is well served by both regional express services and the local bus network. From the city bus station - a short walk from the railway station - a bus service runs every 15 minutes past the Colleges on South Road.

Nearest non-University car park, Prince Bishops: see:

By Rail

InterCity trains from most major centres in the country call at Durham daily including 14 trains from London. The GNER high speed service takes under 3 hours from London King's Cross on the main East Coast line. Durham is just over 3 hours from Birmingham, 2.5 hours from Manchester, 1.5 hours from Edinburgh and 45 minutes from York.

A taxi will take you from the station to any College within 5 minutes and you can walk to the city centre in 10 minutes.

By Air

Durham is 30 minutes drive from Newcastle and Teesside International Airports. Both have regular domestic and international flights. Durham is linked to Newcastle Airport by rail and metro.

By Sea

Scheduled ferry services link the River Tyne to ports in Scandinavia, The Netherlands and Germany.



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