Amalie Noether’s theorem revolutionized mathematics, according to a story by Natalie Angier this week in The New York Times.
Angier writes that Noether, a mathematician who fled Germany during the 1930s and landed a position at Bryn Mawr College, was so brilliant that her professors at the University of Gottingen begged the administration to create a job for her—unheard of–for a woman.
Her professor was indignant and went to bat for her with the university: “I do not see that the sex of the candidate is an argument against her,” said David Hilbert.
“After all, we are a university, not a bathhouse.”
In her story Angier explains that Noether’s theorem is central to the study of physics, and asserts that symmetry in nature is linked to “a corresponding conservation—of momentum, electric charge, energy or the like.”
It’s like a bicycle wheel, Angier says. You can spin the wheel and it looks the same in all directions: it embodies symmetry. In turn, the symmetry yields a corresponding conversation.
Noether tapped into ideas that are critical to modern physics.
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