Demystifying Gauge Symmetry
Abstract
Gauge symmetries are often highlighted as a fundamental cornerstone of modern physics. But at the same time, it is commonly emphasized that gauge symmetries are not a fundamental feature of nature but merely redundancies in our description. We argue that this paradoxical situation can be resolved by a proper definition of the relevant notions like "local", "global", "symmetry" and "redundancy". After a short discussion of these notions in the context of a simple toy model, they are defined in general terms. Afterwards, we discuss how these definitions can help to understand how gauge symmetries can be at the same time fundamentally important and purely mathematical redundancies. In this context, we also argue that local gauge symmetry is not the defining feature of a gauge theory since every theory can be rewritten in locally invariant terms. We then discuss what really makes a gauge theory different and why the widespread "gauge argument" is, at most, a useful didactic tool. Finally, we also comment on the origin of gauge symmetries, the common "little group argument" and the notoriously confusing topic of spontaneous gauge symmetry breaking.
 Publication:

arXiv eprints
 Pub Date:
 January 2019
 DOI:
 10.48550/arXiv.1901.10420
 arXiv:
 arXiv:1901.10420
 Bibcode:
 2019arXiv190110420S
 Keywords:

 Physics  History and Philosophy of Physics
 EPrint:
 36 pages, 22 figures