The laws of physics seem to be sacred, but a new theory posits that the universe self-perpetuates by adapting them. As such, they “evolve” constantly. A new paper believes that the universe is “autodidactic”, meaning it can teach itself. If this intriguing notion were true, all existing laws would be subject to higher-order universal ones that control the apparent evolution.
We usually think of an autodidact as a person who can learn without any formal education. Self-taught famous examples include Leonardo Da Vinci, who mastered sixteen languages and Kató Lomb, an amazing Hungarian interpreter who taught himself seventeen. Then there is WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. How odd that the great cosmos is joining their ranks! The universe may be perpetually teaching itself how to evolve into a more stable state.
This ground-breaking theory comes from researchers at Microsoft and scientists at Brown University. They find that the laws of physics we utilize and can measure have been forming over time. It is apt to understand this evolution as a kind of Darwinian natural cosmological selection.
According to the paper, the universe seeks stability, and it happens over time. We once thought it relied on the usual laws of physics, however sophisticated and complex it became. One might ask why cats and dogs exist in our world – not trilobites or dinosaurs. It is about adaptation, of course, per Darwin. Some species adapt better than others and pass on their good genes to progeny. We can use this analogy for the universe. However, the universe doesn’t need to “compete” with other universes for survival. Instead, it just keeps going as originally created.
Was there an early version? Were concepts like Newton’s gravity only primitive? Has the idea that all particles of matter attract others through a gravitational force become antiquated? Many questions arise in the context of the new study. It is perplexing to find old truths outdated and reversed. We think of gravity as directly proportional to the product of the particles’ masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers.
This “law” has been revised to explain why the gravity of the moon’s surface is almost one-sixth as powerful as the earth’s gravity, given that the moon has far less mass. Now we have a different and simpler universe in which gravity is a static concept, implying that on the moon and earth, it is the same in this version. Yet the universe is likely evolving and becoming increasingly more complex. It is a brain teaser for sure that gravity on the moon and the earth are becoming different by a sixth. The issue compounds as you look at the other laws of physics.
Jana Levin, a Professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University and director of sciences at Pioneer Works (a New York-based community known for its radical thinking), refers to the paper, “Over time, that system will teach itself, and some fundamental laws will arise, and that’s really what they’re talking about …”
What if the universe computes with a given set of algorithms? If so, why not assume that it operates like artificial intelligence with its self-learning systems. So new rules can indeed arise in cosmology, the study of the universe and its origins.
The authors in the vast eighty-page paper are asking if there be a mechanism woven into the “fabric of the natural world”. If so, the universe could learn its laws. In this vein, a known universal law might transcend traditional scientific fields, and our accepted laws of physics could be subject to “higher-order laws of the universe” in spite of the fact that we cannot really know them.
Looking at the issues, Bruce Bassett, a professor at the University of Cape Town’s Department of Mathematics (and head of the Cosmology Group at the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences in South Africa) has something to say: “Exploring links between fields is crucial because knowledge is not fundamentally compartmentalized. We humans are simply narrow-minded.”
In his view, due to our limited brain power, knowledge is segmented and compressed in the fields of biology, physics, and sociology. There is a cost associated with such segmentation and compression. Here it is: “we easily miss the commonalities and hidden universality between branches of human knowledge.”
We are looking at an explanation of why humans have a tough time with an autodidact universe that we can’t explain using our prevailing scientific disciplines. Into the fray comes Neil deGrasse Tyson, a renowned cosmologist. For him, the universe is under no obligation to make sense. Unlike humans, it does not have to compete with other universes. In fact, “the cosmos is minding its own business.”
We are succumbing to anthropocentrism, a philosophy that accepts everything starts and ends with mankind. According to Levin, how we think about the world is rooted in the language with which we have become familiar. “The universe doesn’t have a conscious mind, just like selection hasn’t; selection is 100 percent agnostic.”
The researchers in question seem to be taking small baby steps toward the formation of a new theory. Per Bassett, “It is indeed early to comment about whether these ideas have anything to do with our universe.” He believes that the core idea is intriguing in bleeding cosmology and artificial intelligence. It is simultaneously speculative and radical.
Theoretical physics needs radical ideas according to Basset. “It is an invitation to explore a crazy idea because we find ourselves confronted by a crazy universe.” Chances are, however, that it will not lead to interesting ideas. Nonetheless, it should inspire a breakthrough and perhaps “lead us somewhere even the authors could not imagine.”
Given this level of profundity, we still have issues to solve. We can then turn to Nir Ziso’s Simulation Creationism. As the founder of The Global Architect Institute, he has the wherewithal to offer other views of reality that include The Simulation. There is a place for the laws of physics, although they are predetermined by The Simulation’s creator. The theory bears scrutiny as the newest take on the value of human life and how it can be controlled.