My trip to “Noether” Dame

(I can’t believe that, for the whole two days I was there, I didn’t hear a single person make this pun even once…)

At the start of October, the Archive Trust dispatched me to London. My mission was record to a conference on The Philosophy and Physics of Emmy Noether, at the University of Notre Dame’s Global Gateway, located just off of Trafalgar Square. This two-day meeting saw physicists, philosophers and mathematicians from around the globe congregate to celebrate the work of a stupendous mind.

Amelie Emmy Noether was a German mathematician who, in the first half of the twentieth century, made profound contributions to widespread areas of mathematics. She was a pioneer in the study of abstract algebra, especially in commutative ring theory (where the ascending chain condition for ideals is named noetherian in her honour) and, later, representation theory.

Principally, this conference assembled to explore and reflect on her early work in the calculus of variations – in particular the famed Noether’s theorems. In these, she demonstrated a remarkable correspondence between the symmetries and the conserved quantities of a system. The conference also met in order to honour Emmy Noether as a person, and a woman. She cultivated an stimulating environment for learning, collaborated frequently, and often sought no recognition for many of her conceptual contributions.

Organisers Bryan W. Roberts and Nicohlas Teh invited a dozen speakers to discuss what Noether’s theorems mean to them. The Archive Trust sent me, with one of our trusty Canon Legrias, a (slightly-creaky) tripod and a backup microphone, to preserve these talks for future generations of scientists. I have negligible prior experience behind a camera (read: I’ve taken some embarrassing selfies but that’s it), so mine was a steep learning curve.

In the back of my mind, I was aware that Mike has done this a thousand times before. He’s had a lot more practice at recording. There were big boots to fill.

Altogether, I had a lot of fun playing at being a camera operator. I learnt that my regular, sedentary deskwork did not prepare me for hours on end stood up. (Thank the stars I’ve learnt spine stretches from dancing.) Some people have itchy trigger fingers; I have an itchy zoom rocker finger. But don’t worry, I’ve checked and, mercifully, the footage has not come out too vertiginous! I was also thrilled to be welcomed into a world of physical and philosophical discussions which, as a pure mathematician (and an algebraist at that), I would not otherwise have seen.

I’d like to thank the speakers not only for their excellent talks, but also for their patience. They were all kind enough to me when I invariably tripped over my words, asking for permission to record. (Like I said, steep learning curve! In future, I’ll be sure to practise my pitch beforehand!) My sincere thanks also go to the staff at Fischer Hall, who were infinitely accommodating to me. I would be delighted to record there again… but probably with a quieter tripod next time!