"We describe our shared reality with these laws of physics, even though they "evolve as we gain a broader understanding of the universe."
In general, physicists accept the principle that the universe follows a set of strict, immutable rules… however, not all of them. In an article published in New Scientist, theoretical physicist Sankar Das Sarma explains that “what we commonly call laws of physics are just consistent mathematical theories.” We describe our shared reality with these laws of physics, even though they “evolve as we gain a broader understanding of the universe.” “I simply do not believe these fundamental laws exist,” adds Sarma, even though many scientists see themselves as discovering them.
Through physics, Sarma finds it remarkable that humans are able to comprehend some aspects of the universe. He says that the more we learn about nature, the better we can describe it, but the possibilities are endless. Sarma explains this with the onion principle. The process resembles peeling an infinite onion. The more we peel, the more we have to peel.
Physics across a multiverse
With Sarma introducing the concept of the multiverse or infinite universes, he reflects on how humans could be so arrogant that they believe the rules that appear to govern our reality apply everywhere. A theoretical argument is raised by the physicist, who maintains that despite quantum mechanics’ substantial nature, a theory that he describes as “a set of rules we use to express our laws rather than a law in itself,” it remains too uncertain to be regarded as sacrosanct since it is full of unknowns and variables. The physicist explains that he finds it challenging to imagine that future researchers, a thousand years from now, would still use quantum mechanics as the ultimate description of nature.
Stuck on quantum mechanics
He argues that by that time, “something else” should replace quantum mechanics, just like quantum mechanics replaced Newtonian mechanics. Sarma declines to speculate about what that replacement might be. However, he does not see any particular reason to believe that our understanding of how the physical universe works should suddenly peak at the turn of the twentieth century and remain anchored forever to quantum mechanics.