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Q & A: How far do the laws of physics apply?

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Most recent answer: 01/18/2014
Q:
Is it theoretically possible for the laws of physics to not apply outside of the observable universe? I personally believe that it isn't, but given the Schrodinger's cat experiment I'm not entirely sure.
- Gibson (age 19)
Dawsonville, GA, Unites States of America
A:

It depends what you mean by "the laws of physics". If you mean the laws as we currently know them, they certainly breakdown somewhere, because they aren't all consistent. There's a problem combining gravity and General Relativity. We also don't know the laws governing dark matter and dark energy. So probably the current laws don't even exactly apply within the observable universe. 

Many particular properties of the laws (relative strengths of different forces, size of cosmological constant, ...) have no known explanation. It may be that there are deeper laws for which our laws are just one possible outcome. It's a standard guess then that there would be many universes with different values of these unexplained parameters. Is there a deepest set of laws that would apply throughout the multiverse? Most of us tend to assume that there is, but some colleagues are sure there isn't. None of us know.

You mention Schrödinger's cat. Some non-standard guesses suggest that the "measurement" issue in quantum mechanics may somehow tie in with these other ways in which the current laws are incomplete. Really, nobody knows.

Mike W.


(published on 01/18/2014)

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