Physicist says that the laws of physics don’t actually exist
“Like peeling an infinite onion, the more we peel, the more there is to peel.”
Milky Way Brain
The majority of physicists live under the assumption of a strict and immutable set of laws that govern the universe – but not all.
“What we often call laws of physics are really just consistent mathematical theories that seem to match some parts of nature,” writes theoretical physicist Sankar Das Sarma at the beginning of a paper. must-read new column in New scientist column. These laws of nature are meant to describe our shared reality, even as they “evolve as our empirical knowledge of the universe improves.”
“Here’s the thing,” Sarma continues. “Despite many scientists seeing their role as exposing these ultimate laws, I just don’t believe they exist.”
Prior to Albert Einstein’s pioneering—and ultimately unfinished—attempts to create a theory of everythingand all the leaps in fields like quantum mechanics that followed, the physicist argues, such a claim wouldn’t have seemed outlandish.
Sarma says he finds it “amazing” that humans can even “understand some aspects of the universe through the laws of physics” at all.
“As we discover more about nature, we can hone our descriptions of it, but it never stops,” he writes. “Like peeling an infinite onion, the more we peel, the more there is to peel.”
Pointing to the concept of the multiverseor an infinite number of universes, Sarma wonders how humans can be so overconfident as to imagine that the seeming rules that seem to govern our reality would apply in every universe.
Sarma puts forward a theoretical argument, adding that even in light of a theory as substantial as quantum mechanics, which he describes as “more like a set of rules we use to express our laws rather than as an ultimate law itself”, too many mysteries and variables remain for this so-called fundamental theory to ever be considered sacred.
“It’s hard to imagine that physicists a thousand years from now will still be using quantum mechanics as the fundamental description of nature,” he continues. “By then, something else should replace quantum mechanics, just as quantum mechanics itself has replaced Newtonian mechanics.”
Sarma refuses to speculate what that replacement might be. But he nevertheless sees “no particular reason why our description of how the physical universe appears to work should suddenly peak in the early 21st century and be forever stuck in quantum mechanics.”
“That would,” he adds, “be a really depressing thought!”
More about physics: Those headlines about scientists building a wormhole are total bullshit, folks
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