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Asymmetry

July 21, 2009

I am staying in the Swiss Hotel, Stamford in Singapore. It’s an old haunt from IBM days and has one of the best swimming pools I know. Its a large circular pool with six water feeds in the form of small concrete ornamental fountains around the edge. At 0530 in the morning I have the pool to myself. I tried a variant of the normal too and fro this morning taking a triangular route between alternative ornamental fountains, but then passing over the same ground. If there had been five or seven, then swimming between alternatives would have provided a pleasing asymmetry and I would over the course of an hour tracked most of the pool. As I got frustrated by symmetry, I remembered that most human features are also asymmetric and that we like things in threes, fives or sevens but the even numbers somehow seem wrong. When did you last see a Prince sent on four quests? Asymmetry is of course not the same as inequality. The hotel fills up every day with Qantas crews on stop over, the Qantas pilots however stay in the slightly superior next door hotel. I would have thought better of Australians than to see them perpetuate class differences! The final asymmetry of the morning was the sweeping in of a tropical storm. The staff had just finished laying out tables around the pool for breakfast when tablecloths and crockery were swept up and into the pool. For the next twenty minutes I retrieved debris from the pool to a grateful staff, then spent half an hour hunting through the undergrowth to find my glasses (to correct a asymmetric vision). It also gave me some thoughts for the lecture tomorrow on the future of Government, more on that then and hopefully a podcast.

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