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In an informal sense, groups are related to symmetry. I was wondering if there are groups that describe some sort of asymmetry. Does anyone know of such groups or is asymmetry and groups a contradiction in terms?

Thanks a lot

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closed as not a real question by HJRW, Gerry Myerson, Andreas Thom, Ben Webster Mar 30 '11 at 15:28

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

What does asymmetry mean? For my understanding "symmetry" is the same as "group action on a set"... – Abel Stolz Mar 30 '11 at 9:39
A decent working definition of 'asymmetric' is that an object has trivial automorphism group. For instance almost all finite graphs are asymmetric in this sense. – Colin Reid Mar 30 '11 at 9:40
This question is far below the research-level expected on MO. Its most serious flaw is its lack of any sort of definition of the term 'asymmetry'. I've voting to close. Please read the FAQ for a description of the sort of questions that are suitable. – HJRW Mar 30 '11 at 11:47
The people giving answers are trying to guess what the question means, but shouldn't have to - it's the questioners job to make clear what the question means. Voting to close. – Gerry Myerson Mar 30 '11 at 12:19
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Maybe it is really a contradiction: once you have a group acting on some set preserving some structure you have a group homomorphism from your group into the automorphism group of that structure. This is really a very general phenomenon.

However, to give you some example which goes perhaps more into your direction: in physical models of solid states you have in crystals a discrete symmetry group of discrete translations by a lattice. Clearly, you would call a crystal "symmetric", historically it is perhaps the origin of all considerations concerning symmetry. But now you perturb the symmetry and spoil your crystal. No lattice acts any more. But if you do that very much you arrive at something similar to a "glas": no obvious symmetry but approximately on a larger scale perhaps, it looks very homogeneous again. In this approximative sense, it might be justifiable to call a glass even translation invariant under all translations.

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If you start with a very symmetric object (for example a sphere), you have a large symmetry group. If you break the symmetry (for example. you color two antipodal points of the above mentioned sphere), the symmetry group becomes smaller (in this case one is left with rotations on the axis through these points and some reflections). The amount that the group is reduced can be understood as some measure of asymmetry (of the sphere with marked points, with regards to the sphere without marked points). Or is this not something you are after?

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"Broken symmetry", rather than complete and utter asymmetry, is an important concept for physicists. See I suppose this all goes back to Buridan's ass ( But it doesn't fit that well with group theory as mathematicians see it, though obviously descending to a subgroup as symmetry group is a valid conceptual framework.

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