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Yes, But...

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Posted by Harvey on May 9, 2003 14:16:44 UTC


I think Dick has a legitimate point here. Symmetry is about our ignorance to some extent. Whether symmetries actually exist is an open question, but I'm of the opinion that this might be a pseudo-question.

***For example, suppose that object were a person you had never seen or even been told about. Then you would be totally ignorant of the description of that person. That does not mean that the person then displays every possible symmetry.***

No, but we as humans are necessarily attracted to the symmetries and we ignore the anti-symmetries simply because we have found since Einstein that science can make more progress in studying symmetrical properties (e.g., Lorentzian symmetry) versus the anti-symmetric properties of nature. For example, for many years in particle physics, it was assumed that the parity symmetry held unconditionally in nature. Once a parity violation was theorized and observed, no one held that Charge, Parity, Time-reversal (CPT) was a sacred cow. What changed? Did the symmetry somehow cease to exist even though it existed prior? No, our attention to a particular symmetry was based on our ignorance and once that ignorance was discovered, we all of a sudden talked about symmetry breaking of parity. Soon C&P&T all came under intensive study. We now believe that the reason that there is more matter than anti-matter is due to symmetry violation in Charge conjugate, and particle physicists are busy trying to find this particular violation.

I think Dick's assumption might be valid, that is, it might be true that symmetry is totally based on our ignorance and that we naturally look at symmetries (similar patterns in nature), and it is only when we find how those patterns are dissimilar (i.e., symmetry violation) that we say a symmetry breaking event has occured. When, in actuality, all that has happened is that our ignorance has finally been recognized and we talk about it as if it were an objective event in nature.

This is, if I understand him correctly, what Dick is trying to say.

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