Seven Day. Slightly less colding than yesterday. And hopefully not too unpleasant. Especially after the rigors of today being Daylight Savings Time fall transition day.
Did I mention I HATE DST? OK. Consider it ranted upon. And politicians who continue it properly cursed. Preferably in terms of their fertility.
One of my colleagues, Magnetic Inductance Force, sent me a link [Link] to a blot by Chad Orzel on the Forbes website about how much math you need for physics. I read Chad occasionally. He is a young physicist who writes well but is rather too wordy for my attention span. This is probably because he is very good at explaining things to Bogs. I usually read his blots on Uncertain Principles but lately he has been blogging on Forbes and I avoid Forbes as a tool of the Capitalist Oligarchs. He gets, I am sure, a larger audience there which gets him more mana points from his college’s administrators which improves his job security and future, so I don’t blame him for being serfish but I don’t have to actively support the tyranny.
Anyway, his discussion is that different types of physicists need different amounts and types of maths. He illustrates this by talking about how he never studies the proof of Noether’s Theorem. This intrigued my colleague and, by transfer, myself, so I reflected on this. I realized that the grrr brrr with Noether’s Theorem is a relatively recent “social justice” thing. When I went through university, the physics books mainly talked about Hamilton’s Principle and Euler’s Theorem and Lagrange’s Equations.
This reminded me that physicists tend to have rather different naming conventions than mathematicians. But also that perhaps Chad wasn’t exposed to Noether’s Theorem in university? To estimate this, I proceeded to review Noether’s Theorem. I went through several textbooks on mechanics. Only one of the latest in my collection – a copy of Goldstein I purchased when I taught out of it in the Eighties, talked about Noether’s Theorem and that was in terms of the use of the Lagrangian Density in Quantum Mechanics. This was buried in the back of the book where no one goes since they primarily use only the first five chapters or so to teach classical mechanics.
Hence the conjecture that this is more about broadcasting the role of minorities in Physics than gaps in education. I have expressed my opinions on the role of theorems and proofs in physics before and will not repeat.
What is important about Noether’s Theorem and Hamilton’s Principle and Lagrange’s Equations is that they made the transition from looking at mechanical systems in terms of forces to looking at them in terms of energy. That’s the physics, the math is just the bridge, not the cargo.
But reading Goldstein’s development of Noether’s Theorem, which was in a relativistic framework where all four coordinates are variable, I was reminded of the different types of time.
- Mental Time – this is the time in our heads. It’s subjective, if not relative;
- Metabolic Time – which is variable somehow but also regular. Why do we defecate on a schedule most of the time?;
- Mechanical Time – which is the time of pendulums and clocks and toothbrushes. The latter reminds me every time I use it that mental time is subjective; and
- Relativistic Time – which is dependent on the environment be are embedded in.
Maybe I’ll compromise my standards a bit to spend more time reading Chad and getting good thoughts perking?