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Physicists have put a new twist on the humble corkscrew. Just as a butterfly appears identical to its mirror image, objects made of structures that tilt, twist or spiral possess a symmetry now recognized for the first time.

The new discovery is based on a mathematical operation that transforms a clockwise helix into a counterclockwise one, or vice versa.

“Normally, a helix flips when you put a mirror up to it,” says Venkatraman Gopalan, a materials scientist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. “We’ve developed a special kind of mirror with this math woven into it.” Seen in this mirror, an object with a spiral shape will look just like itself.

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Category: Science