Science without Sums

Whilst it is probably true that you can’t do Science without the Maths there is a lot that can be understood and is of interest without it, we will try and make this a formula free  zone

Emmy Noether



Einstein described her as the greatest ever women mathematician, She was primarily a mathematician but her contribution to physics is major. She was born in Germany in 1882 and her father was an eminent mathematician. It was hoped that she would teach languages but she did mathematics anyway and finished up with a doctorate.She worked several years unpaid in the university department before she was offered a proper position. When when the offer eventually came the facility woke up and withdrew it on the grounds that she was a woman.

She then lectured”on behalf of”David Hilbert who is referred to in almost every discussion of quantum mechanics (Hilbert space).Hilbert and the other members of the faculty recognised her talents and along the way found ways to pay her.She was finally accepted into a paid post in 1919 after the publication of a proof now called Noether’s theorem in 1918. She fled the Nazi’s in 1933and died 2 years later of cancer in Pennsylvania. Noether’s theorem is regarded as one of the most important theorems ever proved in guiding the development of modern physics.Very briefly Noether’s theorem tells us that any time you find a symmetry in nature there is a quantity which is conserved .One symmetry that exists in Nature is called a “gauge symmetry” (if you scale things up or down the physical laws look the same) .The Higgs Boson is called a gauge particle because its existence was inferred from a gauge invariance(symmetry).(This is a bit dodgy physics wise)

If I were a feminist I would be hopping mad at the lack of recognition of Noether’s work.(Come to think of it I am quite cross anyway). Herman Weyl commenting on his appointment to an extraordinary professorship ahead of Noether said “I was ashamed to occupy such a position beside her whom I knew to be my superior as a mathematician in many respects” . More recently her contribution has received the recognition it deserves and there are attempts to make it accessible. Dave Goldberg published an article in New Scientist on 25th April 2015 which does a pretty good job.

This short note really does not do justice to her contribution but I hope here is enough to spark an interest in someone who is really important both as a Scientist and a woman.

Laurence: July 4 2017