Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Physics refutes the Idolatry of the Local

               Physics refutes the Idolatry of the Local

               Is the world like a kingdom, ruled by the will of a single personality? Or is it more like a republic, ruled by impersonal law? I side with the republic; and as evidence for this, I cite the conservation laws of physics.

               According to a theorem by Emmy Noether (a brilliant German-Jewish female mathematician, 1882 – 1935) quantities within physics are conserved whenever there is symmetry within physical law. For instance, momentum is conserved because physical law is symmetrical under spatial displacement; angular momentum is conserved because physical law is symmetrical under rotation; and energy is conserved because physical law is symmetric under time displacement. That is, momentum, angular momentum and energy are conserved because, to physical law, there is no special place nor direction nor time.

               These conservation laws are fundamental; without them the cosmos would immediately become a chaos. Their corresponding symmetries refute the idolatry of the local. The steady orbits of the planets and stars give mute testimony against parochialism.

               The Sun does not go out because, to physics, no age is more golden than any other. The Earth keeps spinning on its axis because, to physics, no direction is more upright than any other. And the Moon does not fall from the sky because, to physics, no land is more holy than any other.

Readers of my “Underfables” will recognize in this my tale of the “Physics Genie”. See the November 17, 2011 blog, at:

No comments:

Post a Comment