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Author Topic: Interesting physics question
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Icon 5 posted January 29, 2008 12:38      Profile for tweety   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
A friend asked me, via email "Do you believe that the scientific "Laws of Nature" hold true for all of
the universe and not just around our Solar system? If so, why? If not, why?"

My short reply was that, yes, I do. That the only things we might observe that differ from what we know would be abilities of other, alien species to manipulate their environment in a way no Earth creature can due to differing environmental pressures.

He's not so sure that the universe is as constant as we observe from Earth. Thought I'd share this with you all and get a sort of discussion/poll going.

What do you guys think? Is the universe constant from beginning to end, or is the universe inconsistent where physical properties become, essentially, localized?

If I were a good man I'd talk to you more often than I do.
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Posts: 454 | From: IL | Registered: May 2005  |  IP: Logged
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Icon 1 posted January 29, 2008 12:54      Profile for ScholasticSpastic     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
We cannot make a claim without evidence. We have evidence that physics works a certain way around our favorite rocky sphere. We have no evidence that it works otherwise around other rocky spheres. It is safe to assume, until such time as we obtain evidence to the contrary, that physics is homogeneous throughout the universe.

Granted, we cannot know that it is so, but Occam's Razor demands that we go with the simplest explanation that fits the available evidence. Hopefully, someday, we'll know for certain whether the hypothesis of universally homogeneous physics is correct. Astronomy so far appears to support the hypothesis.

"As in repeating a well-known song, so in instincts, one action follows another by a sort of rhythm; if a person be interrupted in a song, or in repeating anything by rote, he is generally forced to go back to recover the habitual train of thought..." (Darwin, The Origin of Species)

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted January 29, 2008 13:17      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well, things get pretty weird around black holes, but other than that there's no evidence of the the laws of physics being dependant on location.

As ScolasticSpastic alluded to, there's actually a fair bit of astronomical data available, none of which shows any sign of physical laws being different elsewhere, so if there are differences, they must be of a kind that's not easily observed from a distance (eg, we can't actually prove that semiconductor electronics behaves exactly the same in distant galaxies, we just have no reason to believe they don't).

If you watch 'The History Of NASA' backwards, it's about a space agency that has no manned spaceflight capability, then does low-orbit flights, then lands on the Moon.

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Icon 1 posted January 29, 2008 16:34      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
_______________________ I have to concur that until we have proof to the contrary we must believe that all physics cause you to go to the restroom.

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Colonel Panic
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Icon 1 posted January 29, 2008 17:07      Profile for Colonel Panic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I gotta go with Mo-Man here.

I bought a 40 of Olde English 800 for an alien space abductor type and that sucker forgot to abduct anybody because he was pissing too much.


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Icon 1 posted January 29, 2008 18:06      Profile for nerdwithnofriends     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
As a physics student, I'm inclined to say that the "laws" probably hold true everywhere. And where they don't, well, that part's described in the laws themselves, so they do...

...With the possible exception of gravity. It does things at far distances that it shouldn't, if the data we've collected is accurate. Could our laws of gravity possibly be wrong? No, of course not! Instead, there must be this strange invisible matter that gives off no light- "dark matter", if you will.

I think a lot of astronomers must be programmers; instead of trying to rework the laws to work with the observations we've made, they just kludge them with something like "dark matter" so that they work. Supposedly.

"The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower." - Robert M. Pirsig

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Icon 1 posted January 30, 2008 03:55      Profile for ora     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Wow I remembered my GC login first time after several years!

For me this is less a science question than a philosophy of science question, and there is a fair amount of discussion of whether laws exist at all or are just the most likely outcome under the range of conditions and circumstances we can observe and simulate.

There are major science philosophers who are antirealist about laws and even about the existence of fundamental particles, but in such a way as does not affect say, our ability to manipulate 'photons' to make a TV or LCD screen. For me laws often suggest a certainty humanity is not often smart enough to justify [Smile]

So if our laws could be less clear cut than we imagine it's perhaps harder to argue that our limited understanding of the universe holds true on a universal scale.

Laws, in their form and the ways we describe and use them, can also become dogmas, articles of faith. Scientists can hold on to them in the face of evidence to the contrary, such as Einstein's refutation of quantum theory: "God doesn't play dice".

I recommend anyone with a scientific interest to read some philosophy of science as its fascinating. That said if you are a practicing scientist it may be less helpful, as it can somewhat disconcerting, especially Kuhn's fascinating work.

(Disclosure: ex bioscientist, studied science philosophy as a sideline and ended up in a nuclear physics research centre for a few years.)

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Icon 1 posted January 30, 2008 08:33      Profile for Ashitaka     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
No matter what direction we look in, Eintsteins' Laws seem to be governing what we can see in the movement and light of distant stars. However, we cannot measure newtonian or quantum laws on the planets circling some distant star to see if the other two currnet classes of physics hold.

But I believe that newtonian, einsteinian, and quantum laws are somehow bound together, though there is not yet a unified theory of the big and small.

I put forth as a basis for my argument that the laws of physics are bound together. i.e. If Einstiens laws hold for a region of space, quantum laws also must hold for a reqion of space. As we cannot see (we cannot see inside the event horison of a black hole) a reqion of space that Einsteins' laws do not hold for, The universe (defined as what we can see) should also obey our observations of quantum and newtonian laws. i.e. for every action on that planet circling that distant star that obeys einsteins' laws, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

"If they're not gonna make a distinction between Muslims and violent extremists, then why should I take the time to distinguish between decent, fearful white people and racists?"

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