Empirical Consequences of Symmetries

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (1):59-89 (2014)
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Abstract

It is widely recognized that ‘global’ symmetries, such as the boost invariance of classical mechanics and special relativity, can give rise to direct empirical counterparts such as the Galileo-ship phenomenon. However, conventional wisdom holds that ‘local’ symmetries, such as the diffeomorphism invariance of general relativity and the gauge invariance of classical electromagnetism, have no such direct empirical counterparts. We argue against this conventional wisdom. We develop a framework for analysing the relationship between Galileo-ship empirical phenomena on the one hand, and physical theories that model such phenomena on the other, that renders the relationship between theoretical and empirical symmetries transparent, and from which it follows that both global and local symmetries can give rise to Galileo-ship phenomena. In particular, we use this framework to exhibit an analogue of Galileo’s ship for the local gauge invariance of electromagnetism. 1 Introduction2 Analogues of Galileo’s Ship? Faraday’s Cage and t’Hooft’s Beam-Splitter2.1 Faraday’s cage2.2 t’Hooft’s beam-splitter3 A Framework for Symmetries I: Systems and Subsystems4 An Example: Coulombic Electrostatics5 A Framework for Symmetries II: The Relationship between Theoretical and Empirical Symmetries6 Newtonian Gravity7 Local Symmetries that Are Not Boundary-Preserving: Classical Electromagnetism and Faraday’s Cage8 Local Boundary-Preserving Symmetries: Klein-Gordon-Maxwell Gauge Theory and t’Hooft’s Beam-Splitter9 Summary10 Conclusions

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Author Profiles

David Wallace
University of Pittsburgh
Hilary Greaves
Oxford University

Citations of this work

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Comparing dualities and gauge symmetries.Sebastian De Haro, Nicholas Teh & Jeremy N. Butterfield - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 59:68-80.

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References found in this work

Dialogue concerning the Two Chief World Systems.Galileo Galilei & Stillman Drake - 1954 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 5 (19):253-256.
Physics and Leibniz's principles.Simon Saunders - 2002 - In Katherine Brading & Elena Castellani (eds.), Symmetries in Physics: Philosophical Reflections. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 289--307.
The Hole Argument.John D. Norton - 1988 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1988:56 - 64.
Perfect symmetries.Richard Healey - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (4):697-720.

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