Universal Laws of Physics May be Replaced by "Local" Laws
NASA Articles 11/3/11
By: Chris Capps
Physics, which has been considered a single set of rules designed to determine how the universe works in a given time span has revealed yet another possibility to surprise scientists. Not only were the ideas we previously had about the laws of physics thrown into question, scientists are wondering if we will ever fully understand what makes this universe tick as we look further out into it. And so scientists may have to once again revise the definition of what is possible.
Looking deep into the universe, scientists at the University of New South Wales have discovered a possible detour from the traditional laws of physics simply by observing something as constant as the speed of light. While looking through the European Southern Observatory's aptly named Very Large Telescope, scientists measured the light reflecting off of atoms as they traveled through space. What they discovered was that the wavelengths changed considerably depending on where the atoms and the light reflecting from them were in space were. The results were astounding, and suggested that we may be a long way from being able to truly discover the deepest questions about our own universe.
Trying to learn the laws of physics, it would appear, are less like trying to learn the all encompassing global laws of humanity and more like looking at local ordinances and speed limits. While there may still be some overarching laws of physics that govern the whole known universe, it seems the ones that humanity have been exploring for the past few centuries have primarily been in relation to our very localized space.
As a result, it may be back to the drawing board on many of the proposed laws of physics like the maximum speed in the universe, the relationship energy has with matter transformation, the passage of time, and even the origins of everything. Even something as basic as the true size of our universe is thrown into question once we consider the possibility that the light we are observing could be altered quite a bit depending on where it is coming from and where it was before we first saw it.
Scientists have already pointed out that different places in our universe may depend on laws that are in fact hostile to human life. But by that logic, it seems a galaxy hostile to human life may be favorable to the evolution and development of a far different form of life - even one that would be entirely unrecognizable to us. And if the size of the universe is coming into question, it may be quite possible that the entire universe may not be quite as finite as we once thought it to be.
In fact, if the universe simply changed the further out it went rather than ceasing to exist altogether it could very well be infinite. And if we're quickly losing our definition of impossible the further out we go, the whole concept of energy and matter could be soon called into question as well. While we could argue that anything exerting a force or containing information could be considered energy, the behaviors we have come to expect from energy could be quite different in a universe with alternate physics. If we continue to explore the vast reaches of the galaxy around us, what might we discover still?