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Are Gauge Symmetry Transformations Observable?

Katherine Brading and Harvey R. Brown
The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Vol. 55, No. 4 (Dec., 2004), pp. 645-665
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3541620
Page Count: 21
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Are Gauge Symmetry Transformations Observable?
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Abstract

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.

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