Physics Science, Medicine and Technology

Symmetry in the Universe and the Beauty of God

© Shutterstock

I. Ahmad

What is Symmetry?

“A symmetry operation is a change of the coordinates which does not change the physical laws. The laws of physics are the same no matter whether we move them over some distance, or turn them around, or reflect them in a mirror, or do any other such thing.” – Richard Feynman

In the field of physics, one of the most important concepts is symmetry. In simple words, symmetry is the ability to be able to reorder or reorganize something so that whatever form it is in, it will stay the same. Think of a square, you can flip it around, rotate it, and move its location, but it will still be that same shape. This is the essence of symmetry.

Experimentalist Michael Faraday discovered that the motion of a magnet inside a wire coil could produce an electric current. Later, James Clark Maxwell was able to put Faraday’s experiments into mathematical logic. His equations showed electricity, magnetism, and even light as different forms of the same phenomenon. This phenomenon is electromagnetic energy which produces waves that have different effects based on wavelength, energy, and frequency. Thus, magnetism, electricity, light, microwaves, and many others were all able to be bundled into electromagnetic energy. Showing one huge symmetry.

Symmetry is where we see the beauty in science and physics. To a physicist, symmetry is seen in equations. Einstein’s famous formula 

E=mc2 is the perfect example of this. It shows that energy and mass are two sides of the same coin, no matter how you flip energy into mass or vice versa it will always equate to the same thing. Mass contains huge amounts of energy, but unlocking this energy is not so easy. Nuclear fission opened the door to turning a small amount of mass into a large amount of energy and thus incited the use of nuclear energy.

This concept is the basis of one of the most important goals in physics: proving the Unified Field Theory. The Unified Field Theory is the end point for most physicists around the world; it is the framework which unites all fundamental forces of the universe under one theory. In other words, it provides symmetry to the four fundamental forces of the universe, which are: gravity, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force.

Einstein spent the last thirty years of his life searching for the Unified Field Theory by trying to unite electromagnetism and gravity. Even Einstein, who found a symmetry uniting space and time, was not able to accomplish this monumental task. Since his life, advancements have been made in attempting to unify these forces, Nobel Laureate Dr. Abdus Salam found a fundamental relationship between the weak nuclear force, and electromagnetism- thus, pioneering the electroweak theory. String Theory and M-theory were proposed to find an answer, but to this day the Unified Field Theory has not been solved. We are still working towards finding complete symmetry in the universe.

Symmetry in Islam

Throughout the universe, we see symmetry everywhere in the form of balance. The Zero-universe theory describes how the total energy of the universe adds up to zero, all the positive energy in the form of mass and the negative energy in the form of gravity ultimately cancel each other out. The universe, as we know it, would not exist without this balance. If the force of gravity was even slightly greater, matter would collapse in on itself, and if it was even slightly weaker all matter would disperse, and the stars and galaxies would completely fly apart and cease to exist. 

In this way, we can see the perfection of the universe through symmetry. The universe’s shape is also perfectly symmetrical. There is no center of the universe because it is the same from all directions, one decently sized portion of the universe can not be differentiated from another. It is theorized that if there are multiple universes with different laws of physics then these universes would either never evolve past eternal darkness or quickly die out. It seems that everything in our universe is perfectly symmetrical, which is the reason for life being possible. We see the concept of symmetry in Islam in one very distinct way.

As Muslims, we believe that there is only one God. On a practical level, this makes sense, for if there were multiple it could cause chaos and argument among them. This defeats the purpose of the concept of God in the first place, which is a perfect being that created everything and controls everything. But if we look closely we can see the proof of one God behind science as well.

Using the concept of symmetry we see that the universe is perfectly symmetrical, all fundamental forces can come under one theory or exist in symmetry. If the universe is symmetrical why would God not be unified in the same way? Physicists around the world search for the Unified Field Theory, Einstein spent the last decades of his life working towards it. In other words, these people are searching for the great symmetry, yet the greatest symmetry is right in front of us, the symmetry of one God. So the concept of symmetry proves that God must be completely symmetrical and unified, meaning be one. 

In the Quran, the unity and oneness of Allah have been mentioned a multitude of times.

“Say, ‘He is Allah, the One and only”: (112:2)

“Surely your God is One”:(37:5)

In science symmetry is perfection. The greatest goal of a physicist is to find symmetry all around us, to unify the universe. But what is more unified than one God? The way I see it, in Allah we see complete symmetry and henceforth complete perfection. Thus we can find the beauty of God in science.