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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

“Emily, who?” Symmetry and invariance —Munir Attaullah

Why does many a familiar argument I hear from our TV pundits remind me of Amalie (“Emily”) Noether?

“Emily, who?” I hear you mutter; followed, no doubt, by “And what the **** is he talking about?”

Even as I chuckle quietly at having bemused most of you (except, possibly, those who have a solid background of physics or mathematics), I wonder if I am being fair to readers by opting to write the sort of column I fear this one will likely turn out to be.

Upon further reflection (with apologies for a bit of naughty one-up-man-ship), I will box on. For, the sorts of connections I propose to make — convoluted and obtuse though they will seem to some — have always had a special kind of intellectual fascination for me. These columns may ultimately be intended for you, but if they were not also for me I would not bother writing them.

So let me start by first telling you a little about Emily Noether. This German lass was probably the finest female mathematician of all time. She did her path-breaking work in those heady years of the early twentieth century when Physics was being revolutionised by a host of brilliant men. And, she earned their unanimous and ungrudging respect for her contributions to their understanding of Nature at the most fundamental level.....

“Emily, who?” Symmetry and invariance —Munir Attaullah


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