Emmy Noether made perhaps the most significant discovery of the 20th century. A female Jewish intellectual in Nazi Germany (you can do that math), Emmy’s was a special approach to life. Noether’s Theorem ties the laws of nature — from Newton’s laws to thermodynamics to charge conservation — directly to the geometry of space and time, the very fabric of reality. It is the basis for the standard model of particle physics, quantum electrodynamics, and grand unified theories including supersymmetry and superstrings. As usual in physics, it gets really interesting when the theorem is violated: answers to the origin of mass and the matter-antimatter asymmetry problems emerge when Noether’s theorem is violated. Two things should bother you about Noether’s Theorem: (1) how come so few people have heard of Emmy Noether? and (2) why isn’t her theorem well known to lovers of science? With the help of a bunch of straw, Ransom Stephens solves these problems on June 16, 2010.

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