Symmetry and group theory throughout physics
Theory Group, ESRF, 6 rue Jules Horowitz, 38000 Grenoble, France
Published online: 02 March 2012
As noticed in 1884 by Pierre Curie , physical properties of matter are tightly related to the kind of symmetry of the medium. Group theory is a systematic tool, though not always easy to handle, to exploit symmetry properties, for instance to find the eigenvectors and eigenvalues of an operator. Certain properties (optical activity, piezoelectricity) are forbidden in molecules or crystals of high symmetry. A few theorems (Noether, Goldstone) establish general relations between physical properties and symmetry. Applications of group theory to condensed matter physics, elementary particle physics, quantum mechanics, electromagnetism are reviewed. Group theory is not only a tool, but also a beautiful construction which casts insight into natural phenomena.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2012