### So Irigaray was Right?

#### Posted by David Corfield

A very long time ago, while teaching in a Cultural Studies department, I taught on an introductory course on postmodernism. One of the thinkers we treated was Luce Irigaray:

Irigaray examines the systematic suppression of feminine and maternal concerns from the history of Western philosophy in

Ce sexe qui n’en est pas un(This sex which is not one) (1977), arguing that valorization of the masculine is destructive to the fluid multiplicity of feminine sexuality.

Now, Irigaray was one of the targets of Sokal and Bricmont:

Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont’s

Fashionable Nonsensecriticizes Irigaray, as a general example of what they believe is the anti-scientific tendency of “postmodernism”. They cite her analyses of $E=mc^{2}$ as a “sexed equation” (because it privileges the speed of light) and her argument that fluid mechanics has been neglected by “masculine” science that prefers to deal with “masculine” rigid objects rather than “feminine” fluids. (Wikipedia)

No surprise for Irigarayans then but that a woman, Penny Smith, should sort out the Navier-Stokes equations. All they need show now is the irrelevance of the fact that, as with any mathematician, Smith’s work emerges from a vast communal effort. E.g., according to Christina Sormani, Smith told her:

It was Marsden’s book [Applications of Global Analysis in Mathematical Physics] which talked about the geometric theory of both Einstein Cauchy and NS Cauchy that got me into both problems.

And then there’s the small worry that relativity and hydrodynamics may be quite closely related.

Without wishing to suppress the fluidity, what opportunities are there for categorified Navier-Stokes?

Posted at October 6, 2006 10:03 AM UTC
## Re: So Irigaray was Right?

I really enjoyed Penny Smith’s comments on sci.physics.research when I was a moderator there. So, I’m rooting for her success in proving global existence for the Navier-Stokes equations.

However, my informants say we should reserve our applause for a while. None of the Navier-Stokes experts have come forward to say they’re verified her argument yet.

So, it’s

waypremature to start pondering the inherently feminine nature of fluid dynamics, as opposed to the masculinity of “rigid bodies”.More interesting to me is this:

There’s just

onereally interesting equation of physics that’s been proved to have solutions that last for all time without blowing up: the multiparticle Schrödinger equation for charged particles. The Navier-Stokes equation would make two!Nobody has even proved that Newtonian point particles interacting via Newtonian gravity have globally well-defined time evolution for almost all initial conditions! It’s pathetic. The situation with Maxwell’s equations coupled to classical charged point particles is even worse, and interacting quantum fields are worse still, except in low-dimensional toy models. With general relativity we

knowthere are singularities.Of course, there are lots of idealized systems - like the harmonic oscillator, vacuum Maxwell equations, and free quantum fields - that are known to have solutions lasting for all time. But, these are all “noninteracting”.

Someday I want to write a paper about this scandal. It must say something about physics.