Emmy Noether: Symmetry and conservation
An immensely under-appreciated mathematician of the early 20th century is Emmy Noether. Despite fighting an uphill battle against the systems and structures of academia at the time, she brought to the world many incredible mathematical insights. One of those was Noether’s theorem, which essentially tells us for every symmetry in a problem there is a conserved quantity that can be found. Knowing these conserved quantities (think conservation of mass, momentum, energy, and so on) allows us to formulate equations to govern the problems we are interested in.
One manifestation of Noether’s theorem is in formulation of magnetic confinement fusion, in which symmetries are exploited to contain plasma. Knowledge of Noether’s theorem, and the conserved quantities that symmetries relate to, ultimately helps scientists understand and design machines that use massive magnetic fields to trap the plasma.
The following are a couple of short videos that briefly address Emmy Noether and her theorem, and then a brief demonstration of plasma to help give you an idea of what that looks like.
While Emmy is just one of many women who made immense contributions to mathematics and science in the past, there are countless examples of scientists today practising their craft and working in mathematics. As part of a recent Women in Maths Day, ACEMS put together some messages from active mathematicians to highlight this.