Reflection symmetry

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Figures with the axes of symmetry drawn in.

Reflection symmetry, mirror symmetry, mirror-image symmetry, or bilateral symmetry is symmetry with respect to reflection.

It is the most common type of symmetry. In 2D there is an axis of symmetry, in 3D a plane of symmetry. An object or figure for which this applies is equal to its mirror image.

The axis of symmetry of a two-dimensional figure is a line such that, if a perpendicular is constructed, any two points lying on the perpendicular at equal distances from the axis of symmetry are identical. Another way to think about it is that if the shape were to be folded in half over the axis, the two halves would be identical: the two halves are each other's mirror image. Thus a square would have four axes of symmetry, Because there are four different ways to fold it and have the edges all match. A circle has infinite axes of symmetry, for the same reason.

If the letter T is reflected along a vertical axis, it appears the same. Note that this is sometimes called horizontal symmetry, and sometimes vertical symmetry! One can better use an unambiguous formulation, e.g. "T has a vertical symmetry axis."

The triangles with this symmetry are isosceles, the quadrilaterals with this symmetry are the geometric kites and the isosceles trapezoids.

For each line or plane of reflection, the symmetry group is isomorphic with Cs (see point groups in three dimensions), one of the three types of order two (involutions), hence algebraically C2. The fundamental domain is a half-plane or half-space.

Bilateria (bilateral animals, including humans) are more or less symmetric with respect to the sagittal plane.

In certain contexts there is rotational symmetry anyway. Then mirror-image symmetry is equivalent with inversion symmetry; in such contexts in modern physics the term P-symmetry is used for both (P stands for parity).

For more general types of reflection there are corresponding more general types of reflection symmetry. Examples:

See also

External links

Mapping with symmetry - source in Delphi