I do not mean the "debauch of indices" discussed at Debauches of indices: Translation request

I have a memory of someone talking about a "plague" of indices, or perhaps of tensors. Maybe I am just confusing it with the "gruppenpest," the image of group theory as a plague on physics, but I don't think I am.

Gerald Edgar shows Dwight Neuenschwander used the phrase in a 2014 book on tensors but I suspect he got it from someone earlier. I believe I heard it much earlier than that, and since I have read Neuenschwander's book on Noether's conservation theorem I would have remembered if was associated with him. Sadly he passed away last spring and I cannot ask him.

  • $\begingroup$ Google finds such an example. Was that unacceptable to you for some reason? $\endgroup$ – Gerald Edgar Sep 11 '17 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ @GeraldEdgar Google did not find it for me then, and does not now. Can you give the URL you found? $\endgroup$ – Colin McLarty Sep 11 '17 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00107514.2015.1133710 it seems my search was set to duckduckgo and not google. $\endgroup$ – Gerald Edgar Sep 11 '17 at 20:33
  • $\begingroup$ Cvitanović (2008) has “index plague”. Still more recent than you’d like, I’m afraid. $\endgroup$ – Francois Ziegler Sep 12 '17 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure that Dwight "Ed" Neuenschwander, author of the books on Neother's Theorem and also "Tensor Calculus for Physics" passed away? He is still listed as Department Chair for Physics at Southern Nazarene University. I did see an obituary for someone with the same name (father maybe?) but the author of the book was born in the 1950s where as the obituary is of someone born in the 1930s. I have exchanged a few e-mails with Professor Neuenschwander regarding his tensor book. $\endgroup$ – K7PEH Sep 17 '17 at 20:53

Given the topic I came across this recently in the short bio of Jan Arnoldus Schouten (of the Schouten tensor), which you might find interesting/entertaining:

Schoutens dissertation applied his 'direct analysis' modelled on the vector analysis of Gibbs and Heaviside to higher order tensor like entities he called 'affinors' ... [and also] entities such as axiators, perversors and deviators appeared in this analysis ... just as vector analysis had the dot and cross product, so affinor analysis had different kinds of products for tensors at various levels. However, instead of two kinds of multiplication symbols, Schouten had at least twenty [!!!]; this made his work a chore to read, although the conclusions were valid.


Schouten said later to Weyl

"he'd like to throttle the man who wrote this book" [meaning himself!]

... Weyl himself said that Schoutens early book

"has orgies of formalism that threaten the peace of even the technical scientist"; and Weitzenbock wrote

"of the terrible book he had committed".

Lucky for us that Einstein didn't learn the Ricci tensor calculus from Schouten!

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