Minerva Scientifica – Seeing Beyond the Ducks

Ducks 2
Professor Brian Sutton presents Duck Symmetry to pupils from Arts & Media School Islington at Life Sciences Museum, King’s College London

What do you see? Ducks? Or Triangles?

In the Museum of Life Sciences  Professor Brian Sutton was drawing unexpected symmetry from ducks, the exquisite tiling in the Alhambra Palace and Photo 51 – the work of  Rosalind Franklin .Ducks 1 - Copy

His audience did indeed see beyond the ducks. Pupils from Arts & Media School Islington began to see only shapes, patterns and symmetry where once there had been DUCKS!! But surely there must be millions of possible patterns to be made which display symmetry. The ducks had other ideas – they say there are only 17 possibilities – and they quack very loudly indeed.

seal jaw bone
A beautifully symmetrical seal skull and Jaw bone – Museum of Life Sciences

So my question is – are there such limits to patterns in music? Perhaps we will find out as we guide this group of students through creating music and dance from scientific patterns. So far they have chosen DNA and the double helix as their central theme with added symmetry from biological exhibits in the museum.

It is magic of course.  Mathematical Magic.The evidence that pentagonal shapes can’t cover a surface seems to reinforce this idea. Most of the  students felt it was an awkward shape just as they felt bars of 5/4 in music would be awkward. (Don’t worry I’ll soon put them right on that one).

3 fold symmetry tile patterns from the Alhambra Palace in Granada

There is magic in 3 fold symmetry too, which feels like movement in a still image…. waltzing around the Alhambra tiles.

Magic it certainly was to watch these young scholars exploring the exhibits looking for DNA, looking for patterns, looking for symmetry and thinking about music.

ducksWe shall see if Ducks, DNA and the Alhambra Palace appear in their compositions.

In the realm of Ducks there are 17 possibilities – let’s see what Music allows!  Find out on March 18th at 11am  – Free Tickets on Eventbrite

Gillian & group
Dr. Gillian Sales holds forth on biological symmetry as Rosalind Franklin looks on!

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