Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Amily "Emmy" Noether

Image result for emmy noetherEnvironmental & Science Education
History of Science
Women in Science
Edward Hessler

In a blog post, October 24, 2005, theoretical physicist Sean Carroll (CalTech) notes that "a 'symmetry'," in physics, "is a situation where you can rearrange things a bit (values of quantum fields, positions in space, any of the characteristics of some physical state) and get the same answer to any physical question you may want to ask. An obvious example is, in fact, position in space: it doesn’t matter where in the world you set up your experiment to measure the charge of the electron, you should get the same answer. Of course, if your experiment is to measure the Earth’s gravitational field, you might think that you do get a different answer by moving somewhere else in space. But the rules of the game are that everything has to move — you, the experiment, and even the Earth! If you do that, the gravitational field should indeed be the same."

After developing his general theory of relativity, Albert Einstein asked mathematician Amily ("Emmy") Noether for her help in understanding how energy fitted into his equations. In my cartoon summary, the linkage of time and energy. This request resulted into "a rare foray into physics, a discipline in which she was not particularly interested." This resulted in a theorem which has become known as Noether's theorem. This year is the centenary of this publication. It was a fortunate move for physicists and the significance of her contributions cannot be overstated.

Noether's theorem continues "to be font of inspiration." A conference, The Philosophy and Physics of Noether's Theorems, October 5 & 6, will be an occasion for physicists and philosophers of science to discuss the enduring impact of Noether's breakthrough work.

The journal Nature has an editorial about Noether about whom not as much is known as should be. There is a link to her 1918 paper. A quote from an obituary of her former student, Bartel van der Waerden comments on her general approach to mathematics. “All of us like to rely on figures and formulas. She was concerned with concepts only, not with visualization or calculation.”

Noether was born in Erlanger, Germany on March 23, 1882 and died in Byrn Mawr, Pennsylvania, April 14, 1935. The cause of death was a post-operative infection following surgery for an ovarian cyst.  What a loss.


No comments:

Post a Comment