According to one mode of expression, the question: “What are the laws of Nature?” may be stated thus: What are the fewest and simplest assumptions, which being granted, the whole existing order of Nature would result? ~ English philosopher John Stuart Mill in 1843
Historically, physics long fell under the appellation of natural philosophy. An increasing emphasis on empiricism and mathematical description in the 17th century turned natural philosophy into natural science, though that term was applied in hindsight.
“Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science.” ~ Stephen Hawking
Besides his championing heliocentrism when it was controversial, Galileo furthered kinematics (classical physics’ theory of motion), and materials science, particularly the ability of materials to withstand stress without failure; in other words, the energetic integrity of matter.
“A man may imagine things that are false, but he can only understand things that are true, for if the things be false, the apprehension of them is not understanding.” ~ Isaac Newton
In 1687, English physicist and alchemist Isaac Newton published Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (often referred to simply as Principia), creating the mathematical edifice of classical mechanics with a model of universal gravitation and 3 laws of motion: 1) a body has constant velocity unless acted upon by an external force; 2) acceleration is proportional to force and inversely proportional to mass; and 3) the mutual forces of action and reaction between 2 bodies are equal, opposite, and collinear (straight, not funky).
“The famous book of Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy marked the epoch of a great revolution in physics. The method followed by its illustrious author Sir Newton spread the light of mathematics on a science which up to then had remained in the darkness of conjectures and hypotheses.” ~ French polymath Alexis Clairaut in 1747
Newton’s conceptual world was based upon absolute space and time, which were taken to be independent foundations of reality.
Absolute space, in its own nature, without regard to anything external, remains similar and immovable.
“Absolute, true, and mathematical time, for itself, and from its own nature flows equably without regard to anything external, and by another name is called duration.” ~ Isaac Newton
The esteemed image of Newton is of a rational practitioner of pure reason. Far from it. Newton believed in an almighty God. Newton was convinced that The Bible contained secrets in the form of numerological codes.
Newton was obsessed with alchemy, writing over 1 million words on the subject. He spent untold hours trying to replicate alchemical recipes. Instead of the first king of reason, Newton was the last of the magicians.
“Newton spent half his life muddling with alchemy, looking for the philosopher’s stone. That was the pebble by the seashore he really wanted to find.” ~ American writer Fritz Leiber
In 1797, English physicist Benjamin Thompson showed that a seemingly infinite amount of heat could be generated from a finite amount of material. This demonstration of kinetics was instrumental in establishing modern thermodynamics; though, ironically, Thompson’s finding of infinite energy was ignored.
Aristotle used the word energy (energeia) in the 4th century BCE. Energeia was a qualitative concept which included motion of all kinds, including pleasure and happiness. This vibrant quality would become treated qualitatively as physics evolved into a mathematical discipline.
In 1676 German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Leibniz began to develop the idea that a system had a vis viva: a “living force”. At the time vis viva seemed opposed to the theory of conservation of momentum advocated by Isaac Newton and René Descrates. In the 1730s French physicist, mathematician, and natural philosopher Émilie du Châtelet understood that Leibniz was referring to conservation of kinetic energy, which is distinct from conservation of momentum. The prior opposition to vis viva had arisen because kinetic energy was not properly understood.
Thomas Young first used the term energy in the modern sense in 1807, incorporating vis viva; this after vis viva bested the caloric theory as better explaining the potential of heat to generate motion. In 1845 English physicist James Prescott Joule discovered the link between mechanical work and the generation of heat.
Mathematical ponderings about heat led to laws of thermodynamics, based upon the core assumption that energy in a closed system is, as an aggregate, a fixed quantity. Our universe has been shown to not be a closed system energetically. Hence, these ‘laws’, while mathematically neat, are fictional.
Laws of Thermodynamics
The development of the steam engine created an urgent need to understand the nature of heat. Early theories had heat emanating from the friction of unseen moving particles.
“Heat itself, its essence and quiddity is motion and nothing else.” ~ English scientist Francis Bacon in the 17th century
Continuing inquiry into thermodynamics led to laws about energy – specifically, the distribution of energy in the universe. These laws center on entropy: the observed tendency of energy to dissipate, and thereby equilibrate.
“The laws of thermodynamics are fundamental in Nature, as they do not rely on any specific microscopic theory.” ~ Russian American physicist Anatoli Polkovnikov
1st Law: Conservation of Energy
The 1st law of thermodynamics relates to a reciprocal of entropy in a closed system: that energy endures.
“A body of matter cannot disappear completely. It only changes its form, condition, composition, color, and other properties, and turns into a different complex or elementary matter.” ~ Persian polymath Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsī in the mid-13th century
Long after Tūsī, Welsh physical scientist William Robert Grove pondered conservation of energy from a holistic viewpoint.
“The question of whether there can be absolute motion, or indeed any absolute isolated force, is purely the metaphysical question of idealism or realism.” ~ William Robert Grove in 1844
This 1st law of thermodynamics – the conservation of energy – was more firmly put in place by German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz.
“The quantity of force which can be brought into action in the whole of Nature is unchangeable and can neither be increased nor diminished.” ~ Hermann von Helmholtz in On the Conservation of Force (1847)
Kinetic or potential energy may be locally gained or lost during energy transformation. But, according to the 1st law, energy may neither be created nor destroyed.
Energy is just a concept, and the 1st law of thermodynamics is merely an assumption that works well in equations. There is no evidence to support conservation of energy.
“The universe does not violate the conservation of energy; rather it lies outside that law’s jurisdiction.” ~ Australian astrophysicist Tamara Davis
Classical thermodynamics adhered to an assumption still widely held: that the universe is a closed system. That is, the cosmos is presumed isolated and self-contained, with all the energy in evidence (theoretically).
All thermodynamics laws rely upon a closed system, but none so much as the 1st: that the quantity of energy is unchangeable.
“The phenomena of light shows that no vibrations go outside of three-dimensional space, even in the luminous aether. If there is another universe, or a greater number of universes, outside of our own, we can only say that we have no evidence of their exerting any action upon our own.” ~ Canadian astronomer and mathematician Simon Newcomb in 1894
What modern physics has learned is that vast amounts of energy are continuously interchanged between the observable 4 dimensions (4d) and extra spatial dimensions (ed). This has been shown at both the quantum and cosmological scales.
There is a constant flux of so-called virtual particles about every 4d subatomic particle. Virtual particles are extremely short-lived energetic quanta that pop in and out of 4d; subatomic popcorn out of empty space that is quickly consumed by a vacuum void. These ed quanta shape the basic properties of 4d particles, including mass.
The 4d energy drained by the singularity sink of a black hole leaks into ed, rendering a net energy loss 4d.
To extend the conservation of energy law to a higher dimensionality (hd) – to include ed – assumes that energy ed behaves the same as it does 4d; an assumption with no evidentiary basis (nor can there be).
Virtual particles and black holes show that 4d and ed are intertwined energy gyres. We can never find out about the confines of holistic dimensionality (hd). While we may experience ed effects in 4d, the contours of existence are beyond our ken.
This universe may be a gyre with others. Our cosmos may be one in a community. However far-fetched that seems, it is entirely consistent with the interconnections that ubiquitously exist within this universe, and so is only an extension of a known paradigm. It is also coincident with some modern cosmology and physics models.
“Maybe the universe is a vacuum fluctuation.” ~ Edward Tyron
In a 1969 seminar, English physicist Dennis Sciama jokingly suggested that the universe was a supersized virtual particle – having popped into existence for an extended visit before popping back out. American physicist Edward Tyron took the idea seriously. But it was not until after Guth’s 1980 cosmic inflation conjecture – how a universe could inflate from a tiny particle – that anyone else took vacuum genesis seriously.
The obvious problem with the vacuum genesis hypothesis is presupposing a background space from which our universe arose. In 2014, Chinese physicists Dongshan He, Dongfeng Gao, and Qing-yu Cai mathematically showed how to get something from nothing; well, not just something – everything!
“The universe can be created spontaneously from nothing, where “nothing” means there is neither matter nor space or time, and the problem of singularity can be avoided naturally.” ~ Dongshan He, Dongfeng Gao & Qing-yu Ca
In this quantum cosmogony model, “the universe is described by a wave function rather than the classical spacetime.”
“The birth of the universe completely depends upon the quantum nature of the theory.” ~ Dongshan He, Dongfeng Gao & Qing-yu Cai
Cosmogony theories that do not posit an eternity of universes fail to address where the cosmic energy comes from – a grievously lame omission. But that is small potatoes to the universal failure: cosmogony theories ignoring the critical question of how the coherent diversity of Nature is obtained from a singularity.
“The universe is one of those things that happens from time to time.” ~ Edward Tyron
2nd Law: Thermalization & Entropy
With the tendency to thermalize – that is, the inclination of energy to equilibrate – the 2nd law of thermodynamics embraces entropy and crafts a thermodynamic arrow of time. In a nutshell, everything runs down.
French military engineer Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot was fascinated with steam engines. Carnot abstracted an idealized heat engine in 1824.
“The production of motive power is therefore due in steam engines not to actual consumption of caloric but to its transportation from a warm body to a cold body.” ~ Nicolas Carnot
While Carnot developed an otherwise compelling analysis of how to efficiently convert heat into work, the Carnot cycle was grounded in the clumsy caloric theory: an obsolete conjecture that heat is a self-repellent fluid that flows from hotter to colder bodies.
French engineer and physicist Benoît Paul Émile Clapeyron conceptually cleaned up the Carnot cycle, presenting it in 1834 in a more acceptable form: as an analytic graph.
Rudolf Clausius formulated the 2nd law of thermodynamics in 1850. Further thinking about thermalization led Clausius to the notion of entropy in 1865.
The 2nd law of thermodynamics forbids perpetual motion machines.
The 2nd law’s edict that systems thermalize is regularly violated. Some quantum systems thermalize; others don’t.
One thermalization violation occurs when cooling gas, substantiating Maxwell’s demon: an 1871 thought experiment by Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell, who hypothesized a way to decrease entropy by a method now proven.
In nanoclusters of jostling atoms, some clusters ricochet off each other faster than their collision speed. This violates the 2nd law.
On average, the rebound is less energetic than the collision. Fast bouncers appear 5% of the time; enough to violate the law while leaving it an adequate approximation.
Experiments with entangled atoms have shown that heat may flow from cold to hot, contrary to the 2nd law. This may not be a strict violation of that law, which presumes no correlations between particles – an unrealistic assumption, however commonly it may appear to apply.
3rd Law: Maximum Entropy
The 3rd law of thermodynamics takes entropy to the max: entropy approaches a constant value as the temperature approaches zero.
German physicist and chemist Walther Nernst developed his theory of the 3rd law 1906–1912, whereupon it became known as Nernst’s postulate. Lack of contradiction led to its acceptance.
0th Law: Temperature
“Temperature is a single-parameter curve fit to a probability distribution.” ~ American physicist Lincoln Carr
The 0th law of thermodynamics defines temperature as an absolute measure of heat. We have no conception of how hot energy may get. Cold is altogether another matter.
Scottish mathematical physicist William Thomson, better known as Lord Kelvin, imagined in 1848 a temperature so low as to be absolute zero. That chilling concept became the Kelvin temperature scale.
Absolute zero corresponds to the theoretical state in which particles of a gas have no energy at all: utter entropy. This situation is traditionally characterized as a measure of the disordered motion in a classical idealized gas.
So Bitter Cold That It’s Hot
At 0 K, most particles would be at rest, but a few might have higher-than-average energy. This state can be manipulated magnetically to turn positive zero Kelvin to negative.
Quantum particles can be chilled to their lowest possible energy state. Their spins go down. Add energy and some particles’ spins go up. When half are down and half are up, maximum disorder (entropy) is reached.
Add more energy after maximum entropy and the quantum system shifts into negative temperature, where a high-energy state is the only way to accommodate the extra energy. In systems with negative temperature, particles prefer to populate high-energy states instead of low-energy ones. Entropy does a backflip, throwing the laws of thermodynamics into a tizzy. Atoms instantaneously shift from their most stable, lowest energy state to the highest possible energy state.
Absolute zero is not absolute. Negative temperature exists; a state which is almost infinitely hot.
Converse to normal matter, where atoms naturally repel each other, and thus maintain their personal space, atoms in a –K gas are attractive: energetically driven to collapse inwards (and so disappear into a black hole). They do not only because the negative absolute temperature stabilizes them.
“These conservation “laws” are global, applying throughout our universe. Any other form of these laws would be so astounding as to force us to look for some more complex explanation.” ~ American particle physicist Victor Stenger in 2000, who never bothered to look for “some more complex explanation”
The laws of thermodynamics are a legacy of classical physics left intact. Unlike Newtonian gravitation, which was supplanted by Einstein’s general relativity, the tenets of thermodynamics remain undisturbed, with no theoretical replacement.
“A place for everything, and everything in its place.” ~ Mister Dog
The thermodynamics laws are tidy laws, however messy it might be under the rug of reality. Mister Dog would approve, as do old-school physicists, who continue to grant credence to these ‘laws’.
Modern physics has found that all the laws of thermodynamics are violated beyond the confines of ambient existence; that thermodynamics ultimately has no laws which we can ascribe. Alas, for lack of insight, theoretical physicists have not walked through this open door.
“It is not at all natural that “laws of Nature” exist, much less that man is able to discover them.” ~ Hungarian American physicist and mathematician Eugene Wigner
From Classical to Modern Physics
Classical physics accepted what the 5 senses facilely perceived: that observable space and time was all that there is. This philosophical stance is naïve realism: the belief that actuality is reality. Universal laws of Nature were built upon that precondition. As physics’ perspective of existence expanded, the scope of universal laws shrank.
“The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them.” ~ William Henry Bragg
Inquiry into the nature of radiation ushered in modern physics, which is only partly a post-Newtonian conception.
At the turn of the 20th century, Max Planck discovered that energy, while having wavelike properties, only manifests in quantized (particulate) form. Thus arose the Planck constant: the smallest possible increment of energy. Space and time also quantize into a minimal Planck length and Planck time respectively.
Einstein extended Planck’s discovery and found that space and time, which Newton had considered absolute, were instead relative.
“The world looks classical because the complex interactions that an object has with its surroundings conspire to conceal quantum effects from our view.” ~ Serbian-born British physicist Vlatko Vedral
The onset of modern physics came from poking holes in classical descriptions, finding them lacking when considering the cosmic or infinitesimal. The irony of modern physics has been to create new holes that bring the exploration of physics to its limits; a demonstration of how little can be empirically sussed about the nature of Nature, and how easily theory misleads.