Your Question: Changing Physical Laws

28 August 2017

After listening to the most recent episode in our cosmology series, on whether the laws of physics could ever change, a listener emailed us with a question:

We can trace our fundamental forces (strong and weak interaction, electromagnetism, gravity) back to microseconds after the big bang. If we can trace them back this far, wouldn't the only way to change the fundamental laws of the universe be to recreate the conditions of the big bang? Which is, of course, impossible.

- Zach in the University of Arkansas

Excellent question, Zach! We put it to our guest on the show, Massimo Pigliucci, and he had this answer:

There are a couple of possible answers to that question:
(I) we *think* we can trace things back to microseconds after the Big Bang, but that's because we *assume* the current laws have not changed. We don't actually know this. David Hume used something like this to set up is famous problem of induction: in order for science to work we have to assume, without proof, that things have and will always work the same way...
(II) we don't need to recreate the Big Bang, according to Smolin we might be able to get information about what happened before because whatever was there may have left traces. Needless to say, this is highly speculative.
Thanks Massimo!
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Comments (1)

MJA's picture


Friday, September 15, 2017 -- 5:12 PM

Another answer: I believe the

Another answer: I believe the only physical laws of the Universe are the ones we ourselves create. Without mankind's laws, the Universe would be, as it truly is, entirely free. Freedom, something so natural and real that men like Lincoln, Gandhi, and King and so many others fought and died for it. A state on universal equilibrium, imagine that! Einstein's quest for a unified field equation was much more simple than thought, the answer is =