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What if the rules of physics are NOT the same everyywhere?


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The idea that the universe is the same everywhere has never been taken for granted. EInstein and others felt that it was an assumption they had to make in order to get a working hypothesis under way.

Personally I think we are still at the caveman level of understanding the physical world.

The principle that the same physical laws apply everywhere (in the observable universe, at least) is, I think, an assumption you have to make if you want to attempt to explain the observable universe

Well not if you believe that the universe will cease to 'exist' if there are no humans to be conscious of its 'existence'.

*BANG*

Well, that was my brain!

Mike

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Well not if you believe that the universe will cease to 'exist' if there are no humans to be conscious of its 'existence'.

A rather homocentric view of the universe which assumes that our consciousness is the most important or that there is no other consciousness around. In general each new discovery and advance in astronomy/cosmology has shown that we are the small, insignificant specs in the universe. I tend to think that the universe would get on just find if we became extinct as a species.

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A rather homocentric view of the universe which assumes that our consciousness is the most important or that there is no other consciousness around. In general each new discovery and advance in astronomy/cosmology has shown that we are the small, insignificant specs in the universe. I tend to think that the universe would get on just find if we became extinct as a species.

...although discoveries in quantum theory seem to argue tthe other way. An observer is necessary to decide between possible quantum outcomes...

Olly

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...although discoveries in quantum theory seem to argue tthe other way. An observer is necessary to decide between possible quantum outcomes...

Olly

True enough, but I think the question is who/what is an observer which triggers the collapse of the waveform. Consider that we can't see the whole universe - only the part of the universe that light has had enough time to reach us. What happens at that boundary? Does everything exist in an uncollapsed quantum waveform outside that boundary? It's sort of like a simulation - things are only resolved and their form (dead/alive cat) decided when we need to see them. Personally I don't like that - it feels to me as though it makes us too important. I fear we're skirting close to philosophy though as there may be no way to test this...

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I don't think we can avoid philosophy, though... It's a necessary check on science, I'd say.

I don't like the active role of the quantum observer either and suspect that it may just arise from the very detached, non conceptual models of the sub atomic world which are all we have at the moment. Someoby may one day produce a conceptual description of the quantum world which suddenly makes perfect sense. Or they may not!!

Olly

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What is really nice about this place is that we can have these kind of discussions, rational discourses where ideas are teased and disturbed without the need to attack each other personally and instead focus on the ideas themselves. It's a rare event that this kind of thing can happen these days and really does show a deep level of maturity that ought to be treasured and protected. Echoing Olly's sentiment - the history of ideas is a wonderful thing.

Olly, I agree with you that our scientific theories do seem more complete, as if they are becoming evermore refined and focussed. The problem - or one of them - of how we could formulate a measure of this completeness without presupposing that we already know the answer is tricky, but there truely is a sense that science is one of the best tools we have and within its given domain really does seem to be working very well indeed.

The really interesting thing about the quantum world you guys have raised - of which I understand so little - is that in a funny kind of way, and excuse me if I am getting this all wrong - is that in a peculiar manner, QM seems to harken back to the world of Pythagoras - the universe is number (a mental construct); from Plato - the external world as we see it doesn't really exist - it is a mere shadow of some other underlying form or idea (a mental idea); and the discussions from the Idealists - that the universe is really mental :grin:.

Now, if any of this is 'true' of QM, that the observer has a central role to play in what occurs, then it appears that QM is merely claiming what 'common-sense' has always said, that mental states play a really central role in our notion of reality.

Again, if QM discredits or abolishes the notion that all of reality is essentially reducible to matter and its interactions, then it follows that physicalism is false.

So, we have a kind of argument being built:

Knowledge requires somebody who knows, a mind.

The mind affects what is known and what is observed.

Therefore: Without the mind nothing is known or observed.

Physicalism is false.

Minds cannot be measured.

Minds do the measuring.

Therefore.....the mind is everything.

- - - - - - - - - -

Sorry if this is off-topic but curiously Pythagorism evolved into a devious sect where even beans could not be eaten; Platonism disguised itself as Christianism for the people and Idealism branched into forms of Theism and Deism. Could it be feasible to play with the idea that QM is the early stages of a post-modern religion in a secular world? That to a degree the human mind not only establishes what may occur in reality but in consequence, transcends that reality and likewise, could there not exist minds that transcend the physical universe altogether? And might there not even exist an ultimate Mind? Worrying but fascinating stuff.

Edited by Qualia
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Quantum theory is the ultimate Black Box theory. That is, we can see what goes into the black box and, using mathematics, we can see what comes out. What we cannot do is have any idea of what happens in the box.

For me the first black box of which I'm aware was Newton's theory of gravity because he wrote the equations while certainly rejecting the idea of action at a distance. Essentially he was saying, 'This is what it does but I'm at a loss to know how it does it.' Then came Maxwell with what he knew were mechanical analogies for non mechanical interactions between electricity and magnetism. Amazingly the analogies didn't break down beyond what was already known but predicted what was not yet known - that light was electromagnetic radiation. And now we have quantum theory in which staggering numbers of different inputs can have their outputs predicted without any physical conception whatever of what's going on in there. We can't even decide between particles and waves. As John Gribbin said, building on Arthur Eddington, 'We might as well call them Slithy Toves, which is exactly what they are!'

It seems that we can use the distinction between classical and black box theories to go in two philosophical directions. We can use it to argue that all classical theories are really black box, or we can say 'there must be some way of looking inside the box.' I do think that there's a difference between interactions between billiard balls and interactions between Slithy Toves, so I'm hoping to look inside the box. Alas, time is not on my side!!! Sometimes I wonder what would happen if a Zen monk, versed in quantum theory, were to devote himself or herself to the problem... 'I can't see inside the box but I can hear one hand clapping!' :grin:

Olly

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Again, if QM discredits or abolishes the notion that all of reality is essentially reducible to matter and its interactions, then it follows that physicalism is false.

Their is definitely far more to it all than we can/will ever see I think Qualia. When you think about it deeply enough (try not to scare yourself in the process though) just the pure fact that we and everything else appear to be is quite mind blowing, how can we actually be?

The fact that atoms have become self aware/conscious tells us their is something really really strange going on here, I think the apparent material world coming into existence (as what appears to have happened) is an effect preceded/based on something else that is/exists - cause and effect?

Does it all vanish when we die, can we say after we die that all this really did exist, or was it a kind of dream of some kind? .. the more one thinks about it all and the deeper one thinks about it the stranger it all becomes.

A black box it certainly is Olly!

Edited by Cath
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Back to the original question: What if the laws of physics vary across the universe?

What you'd then be trying to understand is:

How do they vary?

What governs how they vary?

Can you determine the set of laws the describes the variation?

Can you predict the variations for a given location in space or time?

Are you able to predict or create a variation locally?

And so on...

Pretty soon you've expanded physics to include a new set of laws that describe the variation. While our understanding of physics may always be incomplete, it will always encompass what we're able to observe.

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Back to the original question: What if the laws of physics vary across the universe?

What you'd then be trying to understand is:

How do they vary?

What governs how they vary?

Can you determine the set of laws the describes the variation?

Can you predict the variations for a given location in space or time?

Are you able to predict or create a variation locally?

And so on...

Pretty soon you've expanded physics to include a new set of laws that describe the variation. While our understanding of physics may always be incomplete, it will always encompass what we're able to observe.

The problem then is that those new laws may vary across the universe and without some invariant law that tells you how the other laws vary then you can't ever be sure how to apply them correctly.

James

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One thing that I do find surprising is that the universe does appear to be so consistent. Spectral classes of stars, for instance. There are not all that many considering how many stars there are... The consistent behaviour of supernovae. Lots of examples. Qute reassuring for science, really.

Olly

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The problem then is that those new laws may vary across the universe and without some invariant law that tells you how the other laws vary then you can't ever be sure how to apply them correctly.

James

But the point is: Science isn't the set of laws, it's the endeavour of trying to formulate which laws apply & understanding what the implications of them are. If your original laws are found to vary, then you need to expand science to include the invariant law that governs the variation. Until you discover it, then you know the science is incomplete, but you also know that if the invariant law can be determined, then it can be incorporated within the framework of science.

In other words - while our understanding of Physics will probably always be incomplete, we can also be sure that any new discoveries about the physical universe can be included in it.

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What is really nice about this place is that we can have these kind of discussions, rational discourses where ideas are teased and disturbed without the need to attack each other personally and instead focus on the ideas themselves. It's a rare event that this kind of thing can happen these days and really does show a deep level of maturity that ought to be treasured and protected. Echoing Olly's sentiment - the history of ideas is a wonderful thing.

+1

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Back to the original question: What if the laws of physics vary across the universe?

The way I understand the question is that it kind of assumes that on the one hand there would exist some kind of 'fixed' law and any observations which contradicted it would be considered different flavours or variences of that fixed law. But, if it is found that 'laws' vary across the cosmos, these variences will be absorbed into a new conceptual framwork which we can go on calling a 'law'. So, to that extent, the laws of physics won't vary across the universe.

This reasoning is grounded on the way I think we go about preceiving things. Our observations cannot be just a matter of mere perception. If they were, we would not know. Perception, then, appears to be a cognitive achievement that involves perceiving that something is or is not the case.

How do we do this? Well, we make inferences, so we can make the distinction between perception and inference. If our brains were not framed by language, if it held no ideas, no hypotheses, no inferences about the world when encountering it or, alternatively, if these ideas and hypotheses were forever fixed-in-stone, then we would not be able to learn and adapt.

We can make two passing remarks on this. From the latter case, we can appreciatte that as a species per se, the idea of an unchanging, fixed and eternal 'law' is confused, because even from the perspective of evolution, change is presupposed

From the former case, this is just another way of saying that all our observations and experiences have to be interpreted and it is this unavoidable involvement which leads us to conclude that they are interpreted on the basis of theory - a conceptual framework - no matter how fundamental or banal.

To this extent, we can say our observations about the world are theory-laden. Observations rest on some form of conceptual framework that is brought to the table of experience; facts always presuppose some kind of conceptual framework a given body of people are working within. The idea that judging what there is or not in the world or universe by merely passively observing it is too simplistic a notion.

What we observe, then, will depend on what we look for and if we ever find that our given laws of physics now vary across the universe, we, as an evolving species, will already be developing and working and shiftng within new references, frames, theories and inferences which will be coming to understand and envelope these changes across the universe in a new conceptual framework - which will be called a 'law'.

To this extent, I feel the question is a little vague and muggy.

Edited by Qualia
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The fine structure constant has been measured across the universe. There are some claims it varies slightly, but not by much, and I think the consensus is that the results are within systematic error of it not varying. It's also been measured back in time on the Earth using data from the Oklo natural nuclear reactor.

The universe is a little boring these days, with Planck, AMS, and the LHC all finding more or less what we expect, we need some more unexplained things!

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Personally I believe that in science "Laws" are adaptable and that they can be added to, an example of this is the 4th Law of Thermodynamics or zeroth-thst Law of thermodynamics. We can only use the information we garner from the observable universe, which in itself is humongous. But if the Laws of Science vary outside of this, does it affect us, do they apply to us?

I think I'll leave it to much smarter people than I, to answer that. I just think that as believers of science we're lucky that nothing is set in stone.

sent from Gherkin Muncher mk .III (commonly known as a Galaxy S2)

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The universe is a little boring these days, with Planck, AMS, and the LHC all finding more or less what we expect, we need some more unexplained things!
Even "Coxy" can only big-up Particle Physics so much? [teasing]. :p

And it is [iMO] fair / lay / educated comment too...

As Olly noted(?), experiment agrees WELL with *minimalist* theory. A triumph for Theorists! Celebrated by this "brother" experimentalist too! One (or two) HUGE experiments - Many people writing up results / theses on the same (unsurprising) thing? A reasonable desire for a bit more excitement? Does this REALLY work? I recently went to a FINE talk about "Gamma Ray Bursters". Now, comprehensively explained. Now, if only they could sort out this minor / boring irritation about "Dark Matter / Energy" ... :D

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That is an oxymoron, I'm afraid. If it is not set in stone, then you should not believe in it.

Why is it wrong to believe in something that isn't 100% proven? I believe in the Theory of evolution by natural selection, yet it still isn't conclusively proven, it is still a theory, not a law of nature. Granted it has a lot of evidence to support it but there are still gaps in our knowledge and understanding of it.

It is ignorant to assume that science at this moment in time holds all the answers and that the Laws of science are complete, but that doesn't mean my belief in science is not valid.

sent from Gherkin Muncher mk .III (commonly known as a Galaxy S2)

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Back to the original question: What if the laws of physics vary across the universe?

What you'd then be trying to understand is:

How do they vary?

What governs how they vary?

Can you determine the set of laws the describes the variation?

Can you predict the variations for a given location in space or time?

Are you able to predict or create a variation locally?

And so on...

Pretty soon you've expanded physics to include a new set of laws that describe the variation. While our understanding of physics may always be incomplete, it will always encompass what we're able to observe.

In advance forgive me for the simplicity of my response to your question. Now the answer is "Who knows" they might be the same or they might be not, "the laws of physics" as we understand them in our corner of the universe can be irrelevant to an other part of the universe, it's the X Factor effect again "Who knows". The way I see it science specially in physics is starting to take now days a more religious approach to it's beliefs by taking for granted "the laws of physics" like they were Christianity's 10 commandments, most scientists are fanatics to those "laws of physics" just like christian religious fanatics are with the word of God, both are not visible to the naked eye but somehow they dictate our daily lifes, both narrow minded for what can be true or a fact, take for instance there are scientists that believe the string theory is a fact and there are others that believe the loop theory is a fact both sides are zealous to their opinion, what if both theories are a fact what if both those two theories coexist either by symbiosis or you can't have the one with out the other or one is byproduct of the other. So to keep my answer sort and meaningful with in the parameters of your questions, "Who knows" if you can't be there at that area of the universe in question you want know what "the laws of physics" might be or what effect they have.

I Reject your reality and I substitute it with my own......

Sent from my Rooted Samsung Galaxy S3 GT-19305 using Tapatalk 2

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That is an oxymoron, I'm afraid. If it is not set in stone, then you should not believe in it.

I'm not sure whether I agree with this or not! :grin:

Firstly I think that it is fundamentally unscientific to believe that anything is set in stone.* Feynman; 'Science is a cutlure of doubt.' So I guess that means that belief itself is unscientific. Fine by me.

Secondly I don't think science is ever set in stone - though it may sometimes be set in mathematics. Now, is mathematics set in stone, unlike all other kinds of idea? Many think that it is and I can see their point. I'm not smart enough to feel confident in saying 'mathematical truth is absolute' but I don't know that it matters here because errors can always arise in applying the mathematics to the physical world.

So where does that leave me over the oxymoron? In doubt!!

Olly

* With the possible exception of fossils...

Edited by ollypenrice
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The way I see it science specially in physics is starting to take now days a more religious approach to it's beliefs by taking for granted "the laws of physics"...
I think this is (still) "just SOME" scientists though? A while, since I was working at a "Physics Lab", but frankly I never met anyone like the current trend in media-popular scientist - At least not *overtly*. All this talk of "Laws" & "Skepticism"? LOL. I speculate things are [still] "less crazy" in the real world. Generally, I found the "scientific community", easy going. Religion & Politics were either avoided or considered rather "irrelevant"? An exception being science budgets & personal grants! But obviously, you don't go around "shooting your mouth off", at an International Lab. Getting many a scientist to talk about *anything* but SCIENCE is / was ever a challenge though? [iMO] "Twitter" has a *lot* to answer for... [part teasing] :p

(vaguely) Back on Topic: I recall a time when there was speculation that there could be whole "islands" of Anti-Matter "out there"! The laws of spectroscopy (spectra) would be the same - We would just never know? Of course NOW, we "know", there is a tiny asymmetry between matter and anti-matter (notably, ourselves!). But I sense, unless you actually visit remote locations and perform experiments (Pack your "Cavendish Balls"!), one can never be 100% certain? ;)

Edited by Macavity
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