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William Hobba

Why Do Most Philosophers Not Know Of Noethers Theorem And Its Implications

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Hi All

There is a very important theorem discovered by the greatest mathematician who you probably never heard of, Emmy Noether, that says something very profound about nature.   I have chatted to philosophers about it but they seem totally unaware of it, or as an aside the struggle this great mathematician had to endure because she was a woman.  I know of a professor who teaches this stuff to math and physics students.   The class reaction is always the same - stunned silence as its importance sinks in.   But it doesn't seem to hold  the same sway in philosophy departments.  Also what would an Objectiveist take on it be?  I will give a spoiler upfront - I think its the most profound example of Quantum Mechanics being the underlying basis of reality - whatever that is (I don't want to get into a discussion of that even though of course its an important question - but we may touch on it in discussing this).

Anyway here are the details:




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There is an article about Noether and the continuing importance of her results for modern physics in the June 23, 2018 issue of Science News. This report includes her work as pertinent to general relativity. I am familiar with her work from my background in physics. Philosophers of physics know her work and write about it sometimes in scientifically informed articles or books on ontology. I see there is a nice fairly recent review article on her work and particle physics here.


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During my adolescence an adult chemist told me about Noether's Theorem but didn't mention the author.  As an undergraduate I asked a physics TA if Noether's Theorem and the Uncertainty Principle were related.  He acknowledged the similarity that prompted the question but didn't know whether there was a connection.  I have also been aware for some time that she was an important mathematician.  I think this is the first time I've seen her credited with the theorem.

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