Q: How plausible is it that the laws of physics may actually function differently in other parts of the universe?

Mathematician: My two cents are that astronomical evidence (what we can tell about galaxies from here on earth) indicates that the laws of newtonian mechanics and gravitation in space are just the same they are here. I imagine that some quantum mechanical laws in space are harder to verify, but no one has ever observed an experiment that varied as a function of the location where it was performed. In other words, I would say that there is no evidence that the laws of physics function differently elsewhere in the universe. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there is NO CHANCE that they differ, just that there is no reason to think they do.

Physicist: To date there is strong evidence that physical laws are identical everywhere. At the very least all the laws governing atomic spectra and fusion are the same (starlight) which covers just a hell of a lot.  You could also argue (not a proof) that the fundamental postulates or relativity need all positions (and all constant velocities) to have the same physical laws.
Most importantly, there is absolutely no evidence to imply that the laws change anywhere/when.

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12 Responses to Q: How plausible is it that the laws of physics may actually function differently in other parts of the universe?

  1. karan grover says:

    look….all the laws of physics we know…..are made on earth. And we know that the earth is revolving around the sun. now the laws are made upon experimental observations. these experiments take about 1-2 days. in 1-2 days earth covers a distance which is a negligible curve* (a straight line). thus this frame of reference is observed all over the universe….or as far as observable universe is conserned. ( meaning whenever these laws are obeyed the body is moving in a straight line*. THUS THESE LAWS MUST BE OBEYED..
    thats what i think…..and thats what i think should be….

  2. John says:

    By definition if it is a “LAW of physics” it applies everywhere. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be a law, right…?

  3. The Physicist The Physicist says:

    The laws could include location dependent. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  4. John says:

    The “location dependent” part of the law wouldn’t change at a given location though. It’s like an “If, then..” statement. Just because the “If” is fulfilled doesn’t mean that the actual “law” or “statement” changes.

    If the laws of physics functioned differently then that would mean that the “If, then” statement changed.
    (Btw, I am positive you know plenty more about physics than me, consider this a learning dialect for me :))

  5. John says:

    I hope you understood what I was trying to say.

    Consider a physical law:

    “If the location is x, then y
    If the location is z, then q
    . . . ”

    And all of these “If, then” scenarios can be represented with mathematical equations and such.

    What I am distinguishing is that just because the location is x, and therefore the y value differs, does not make the actual “law” different. The location part is already included in the law and is therefore not functioning differently.

    If you don’t accept the above argumentation, then you must accept that some laws of physics actually do differ for location. Case in point: gravity. The closer your location is to an object the stronger you are pulled. But would you say that this means the law of gravity functions differently at a different point in the universe?

    (Once again, please forgive me if I am sounding arrogant, these are just questions presented in a debate form [because debate is so much funner])

  6. Ashiq Rahman says:

    the law of gravity might function different… say… incase of the planets which are orbiting around two stars or so… how would be the law applied then??

  7. akshit says:

    laws are nothing but an attempt to generalise what is observed and may be an observation which is seen through a particular view not satisfactory for other

  8. Redrum says:

    I believe there are multiple universes, maybe all at the same time, maybe one is created from the destruction of the previous one, who knows.

    Anyways, if you can handle picturing a universe like a “soap bubble”, everything would need to keep consistent laws/rules as to how things work inside. If laws differed by location within the same universe,it would pop out of existence, or be more than just our 3+1 dimensions, but that doesn’t really count.

    For example, if a particle with our laws (inertia, conservation etc) somehow collided with an outlaw particle that didn’t abide, I imagine the would-be inertia/kinetic energy would tear the universe apart or have some other apocalyptic consequence

  9. Floyd says:

    Not just possible but very probable.

  10. Floyd says:

    I guess I have to agree with everyone. Because every answer on here is feasible. Thing is physical laws apply to us in this universe, at this moment, at this time. My brain stays on an infinity level it’s hard for me to get out of that spot, so please forgive me if I ramble. This being the case it leads me to believe there’s an infinite number of laws where physics are concerned. There are so many that don’t want to deal with multiple universes and multiple infinities. And the word continuum just makes people cringe. I just think that once we as humans get past the beginning and end thing our minds will grow. If you’ve grown beyond our physics you know as well as I do that in some realities that gas is drinkable and water is used as fuel. Do you see the dot at the end of my last sentence? If you understand where I’m coming from then you know that there are an infinite number of multiverses within that little dot. Step outside the box friends and let’s enjoy this ride together.

  11. Floyd says:

    And if we’re just going to get down to plain the laws of physics, then I’m going to have to go there. We determine here on this planet at this time the laws of our physics. What we observe what we can test what we can see. Problem is that’s just here in our universe. Our little part of infinity, the bubble that we live in. We are the only ones that have to go by that law. Now we all know laws are broken all the time. Lets leave that option open.

  12. Nathan says:

    I wonder about the difference between having a law that is location dependent, and having a law that includes location dependence. Scientists have certainly observed location dependence in the outcomes of experiments; the gravitational field at the bottom of a well is different than at the top of a tower, which is different again from aboard the ISS, for example. We just (quite reasonably) try to build location dependence into the mathematical model, rather than trying to construct a new model for each location.

    It seems reasonable that observations in very distance locations may vary according to rules not yet known, and which may fit smoothly or jarringly with the rules we currently have. One way to look at it would be that the laws of physics are different in those locations. More likely, it’ll be interpreted as just another piece of the puzzle we call the laws of physics. Quantum Mechanics and Relativity both contradict previously accepted laws, but we always try to unify our worldview. Whether that is a reflection of the fact that nature really has some underlying unity or a reflection of human nature is more a philosophical question. David Hume would have had us believing no experiment could be genuinely relied upon to have the same result in the future, and I’ve yet to hear a convincing critique of his analysis, but science is so useful we love it even if its underpinnings are somewhat more mysterious than we’d like to admit.

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