University at Buffalo

SymmetryUniversity at Buffalo

List of Exhibits
PASI's Excellent Adventure: the LHC decoded
First Floor
Welcome Kiosk
Tachyonic Antitelephone
Foucault Pendulum
Second Floor
Atom Corral
Cosmic Rays
Electric Circuit
Historic Instruments
Wonder Room: Supersymmetry and Extra Dimensions
Third Floor
Particle Physics
Camera Obscura
Useful Links

The Magnetic Heat Engine, when turned on, shows how a ferromagnet behaves if heat is applied. The magnetism of ferromagnets is due to the spin and orbital motion of electrons about the nucleus of the atoms, making the atoms act like small magnets. The alignment of these small magnets below the Curie temperature creates a strong magnetic field. When a ferromagnet reaches its Curie temperature, the atomic magnets are not aligned anymore and it looses its magnetism. The atomic magnets point in random directions, giving the system rotational symmetry. As it cools, the  spontaneous alignment of the atomic magnets breaks the rotational symmetry and magnetism resumes when the magnet is exposed to a magnetic field.
The Magnetic Domain Demonstrator is a representation of the same process on the atomic scale. Visitors can create or destroy the alignment using magnets.

The concept of symmetry doesn't apply solely to the arts and geometry, as many people assume, but to the world of physics as well. Physicists define symmetry as an "invariance of an object or system to a transformation."

This Symmetry exhibit is comprised of several activities demonstrating symmetry and broken symmetry.
symmetry display

Here is a link to a Flash presentation explaining Symmetry. If the animation does not start, check that your security settings permit running ActiveX controls and that you have Adobe's Flash Player installed on your computer. If not, follow this link to install.

To take part in a self-guided tour, dial 1-888-744-0529, then 20.

Broken Symmetry, the art piece, is a graphical representation of symmetry breaking. The cover can be lifted to break the symmetry.
symmetry painting
The Deflecting Rod allows visitors to break its symmetry by adding mass and causing the support rod to bend.  Symmetry can be restored by removing the mass so the rod can straigthen.


Symmetry in physics
Symmetry breaking