Journal Article

Are Gauge Symmetry Transformations Observable?

Katherine Brading and Harvey R. Brown

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 55, issue 4, pages 645-665
Published in print December 2004 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 2004 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/55.4.645
Are Gauge Symmetry Transformations Observable?

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In a recent paper in this journal, Kosso ([2000]) discussed the observational status of continuous symmetries of physics. While we are in broad agreement with his approach, we disagree with his analysis. In the discussion of the status of gauge symmetry, a set of examples offered by 't Hooft ([1980]) has influenced several philosophers, including Kosso; in all cases the interpretation of the examples is mistaken. In this paper, we present our preferred approach to the empirical significance of symmetries, re-analysing the cases of gauge symmetry and general covariance.

Direct and indirect empirical significance

Global and local continuous symmetries

Gauge symmetry

3.1 Local gauge symmetry

3.1.1 Discussion of the first claim

3.1.2 Discussion of the second claim

3.2 Global gauge symmetry

Space-time symmetries

Direct and indirect empirical significance again

Conclusion

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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