Which symmetry? Noether, Weyl, and conservation of electric charge


Abstract
In 1918, Emmy Noether published a (now famous) theorem establishing a general connection between continuous 'global' symmetries and conserved quantities. In fact, Noether's paper contains two theorems, and the second of these deals with 'local' symmetries; prima facie, this second theorem has nothing to do with conserved quantities. In the same year, Hermann Weyl independently made the first attempt to derive conservation of electric charge from a postulated gauge symmetry. In the light of Noether's work, it is puzzling that Weyl's argument uses local gauge symmetry. This paper explores the relationships between Weyl's work, Noether's two theorems, and the modern connection between gauge symmetry and conservation of electric charge. This includes showing that Weyl's connection is essentially an application of Noether's second theorem, with a novel twist.
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