Scientists Say the Laws of Physics May Be Changing

Scientists Say the Laws of Physics May Be Changing

You know the old saying: the only thing constant is change.

However, we’d venture that most people don’t believe that statement relates to the actual rules of the universe. According to Microsoft researchers, scientists at Brown University, and even one expert who consulted on Disney’s “Wrinkle in Time,” the laws of physics may be steadily changing, challenging our effort to understand the cosmos.

Popular Mechanics released a lengthy explanation of a study titled “The Autodidactic Universe,” which was published earlier this year and advocated for that very mind-bending idea. An autodidact, of course, is someone who learns without the assistance of a mentor or teacher — and, according to these academics, the cosmos itself may be one.

“We ask whether there might be a mechanism woven into the fabric of the natural world, by means of which the universe could learn its laws,” the authors wrote in the paper, which has not yet been peer reviewed.

According to the theory, the cosmos has sought stability over time. PopMech also draws parallels to animal development. There are no more trilobites or dinosaurs, but cats and dogs have survived because they adapted to their surroundings — and the universe may have done the same.

Newton’s laws of gravity, for example, that all matter in the universe attracts other matter with a force directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers, might not have been true in an early form of the universe.

“Over time, that system will teach itself, and some fundamental laws will arise, and that’s really what they’re talking about [in the paper],” Janna Levin, a professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University who wasn’t involved in the research, told PopMech. “If the universe can compute with a given set of algorithms, then maybe it can do the same kind of thing we see in artificial intelligence, where you have self-learning systems that teach themselves new rules. And by rules, in cosmology we mean laws of physics.”

The authors of the publication recognize their own skepticism and write their findings with caution, noting that their work is simply a first step in the construction of a new hypothesis and that further research is needed.

“Of course, this is just a first step,” the authors write. “There are varied potential spin-offs from our approach.”

It’s mind-bending to imagine that the laws of physics might learn and adapt over time. However, it serves as a reminder that the cosmos is stranger than we can possibly imagine.

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Robert V. Ritter
7 months ago

I don’t believe that the Universe “learns”. Rather, it merely reacts to conditions,

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