In The Road to Reality (2004), Roger Penrose writes about a great analogy for symmetry breaking. Apparently, this analogy is rather common in the literature. (No, it’s not the thing about the pencil — this one involves an iron ball.) Once again, I find myself agreeing with Penrose about something; it is a great analogy.
Symmetry breaking (which can be explicit or spontaneous) is critical in many areas of physics. For instance, it’s instrumental in the Higgs mechanism that’s responsible for the mass of some particles.
The short post is for those interested in physics who (like I) have struggled to understand exactly what symmetry breaking is and why it matters.