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We show through first-principles nuclear structure calculations that the special nature of the strong nuclear force determines highly regular patterns heretofore unrecognized in nuclei that can be tied to an emergent approximate symmetry. This symmetry is ubiquitous and mathematically tracks with a symplectic symmetry group. This, in turn, has important implications for understanding the physics of nuclei: we find that nuclei are made of only a few equilibrium shapes, deformed or not, with associated vibrations and rotations. It also opens the path for ab initio large-scale modeling of open-shell intermediate-mass nuclei without the need for renormalized interactions and effective charges.

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Physical Review Letters