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Rotational symmetry, also known as radial symmetry in biology, is the property a shape has when it looks the same after some rotation by a partial turn. An object's degree of rotational symmetry is the number of distinct orientations in which it looks exactly the same for each rotation. Formally the rotational symmetry is symmetry with respect to some or all rotations in m-dimensional Euclidean space. Rotations are direct isometries, i.e., isometries preserving orientation. Therefore, a symmetry group of rotational symmetry is a subgroup of E+(m) (see Euclidean group). Symmetry with respect to all rotations about all points implies translational symmetry with respect to all translations, so space is homogeneous, and the symmetry group is the whole E(m). With the modified notion of symmetry for vector fields the symmetry group can also be E+(m). For symmetry with respect to rotations about a point we can take that point as origin. These rotations form the special orthogonal group SO(m), the group of m×m orthogonal matrices with determinant 1. For m = 3 this is the rotation group SO(3). In another definition of the word, the rotation group of an object is the symmetry group within E+(n), the group of direct isometries ; in other words, the intersection of the full symmetry group and the group of direct isometries. For chiral objects it is the same as the full symmetry group. Laws of physics are SO(3)-invariant if they do not distinguish different directions in space. Because of Noether's theorem, rotational symmetry of a physical system is equivalent to the angular momentum conservation law. Rotational symmetry of order n, also called n-fold rotational symmetry, or discrete rotational symmetry of the nth order, with respect to a particular point (in 2D) or axis (in 3D) means that rotation by an angle of 360°/n (180°, 120°, 90°, 72°, 60°, 51 3⁄7°, etc.) does not change the object. Note that '1-fold' symmetry is no symmetry (all objects look alike after a rotation of 360°). The notation for n-fold symmetry is Cn or simply 'n'. The actual symmetry group is specified by the point or axis of symmetry, together with the n. For each point or axis of symmetry, the abstract group type is cyclic group of order n, Zn. Although for the latter also the notation Cn is used, the geometric and abstract Cn should be distinguished: there are other symmetry groups of the same abstract group type which are geometrically different, see cyclic symmetry groups in 3D.

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