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Physics from Symmetry

Jakob Schwichtenberg
Publisher: 
Springer
Publication Date: 
2015
Number of Pages: 
279
Format: 
Hardcover
Series: 
Undergraduate Lecture Notes in Physics
Price: 
49.99
ISBN: 
9783319192000
Category: 
Textbook
[Reviewed by
Peter Rabinovitch
, on
09/21/2015
]

I am an applied mathematician whose formal training in physics ended after a mechanics course many years ago. Since then, I have tried to read a little more physics, as what I understand I find fascinating.

I have, however, generally been dissatisfied with what I found. Introductory texts are way too wordy, and they usually assume that you barely understand calculus or linear algebra. Interesting popularizations abound, but they all seem to argue by analogy and leave me wanting more details and rigour. More advanced texts usually assume that the reader already understands how physicists think and already know the tricks of the trade.

So it was with great anticipation that I read Physics from Symmetry, where the author attempts, as the title indicates, to derive much of physics from symmetry. I had heard of Noether’s theorem that says each symmetry is related to a conservation law, but had not seen it worked out in detail until I looked this book. Nor had I any idea of how far one could go from just these ideas and a willingness to forge ahead with calculations and see where they lead.

This is not a mathematics book. There are no theorems or proofs. What there are is plenty of ideas, clear explanations, detailed calculations and tons of footnotes.

I found some of the more advanced physics sections slow going due to a delinquent background, and there are no exercises to check the reader’s understanding. But there are several well chosen references to follow up on for each chapter.

If you are at all interested in applications of Lie theory to physics, have a look at the book’s web site at physicsfromsymmetry.com to get more information. I suspect you’ll then go order the book and enjoy it greatly.


Peter Rabinovitch is a Senior Performance Engineer at Akamai, and has been doing data science since long before “data science” was a thing.

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