# Could life forms such as ours, sentient beings, survive if laws of physics were variable?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Michael 345, Oct 15, 2021.

1. ### Michael 345New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldlValued Senior Member

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Stating the obvious it would depend on which laws and by how much. I'm going to lay out a speculation for consideration

I'm going to pick

1/ Speed of light = 1,000,000,000 km per hour
Have fun by varying speed by half or doubling

2/ Mass or, perhaps more importantly, the effect of mass ie the amount of mass (number of atoms remains same) but effect of the mass halves or doubles

The sentient beings have no explanation for the variations of their physics since there is no linkage between the variations and no pattern in the appearance of the variations

What effects might (could) be expected with such variations?

Happy to answer any questions but like to hear other persons thoughts

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3. ### exchemistValued Senior Member

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Do you really mean variable, i.e. not constant over time? Or do you just mean what effect it would have if the values were different from what they actually are?

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5. ### Write4UValued Senior Member

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It would no longer be possible to represent it symbolically with human mathematics.

What is the best definition of mathematics?

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7. ### billvonValued Senior Member

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Speed of light - if it changed to a very small degree, exactly how it changed would be important. Would all photons gain energy (i.e. become shorter wavelengths) as they slowed? Would you see transient Cerenkov radiation from the slowing?

Mass - can't really 'change mass.' That's not just one thing. Do you mean change the gravitational constant? If so, again, how you changed it would matter. The Solar System would become unstable if you changed it more than a very small amount.

8. ### Write4UValued Senior Member

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Could we expectthe following evolutionary processes? I doubt it.

9. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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'The laws of physics are variable' is a faulty premise.

Laws of physics are nothing more than descriptions of what we see in reality.

If they varied, then our laws of physics would be different - notably, our laws would include those variations.

After all:
- once, time and space were observably immutable and absolute. Our laws of physics (observation) told us that. Then we found out both time and space are mutable and vary constantly. Life did not end.
- gravity is not constant. We thought it was once upon a time. Turns out, the father up we go the less strong it is. Our modern law of gravity describes how gravitational force varies with altitude. Life did not end.
- atoms are not hard little billiard balls. Turns out the repulsion of atoms varies with distance from the electron shell. Life did not end.

10. ### Michael 345New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldlValued Senior Member

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I mean variable. One moment speed is 1,000,000,000 km per hour next 500,000,000 km per hour OR 2,000,000,000 per hour

Do you mean change the gravitational constant?

That's more accurate yes. One moment it might double or half

The whole system would change not just a single planet

Part of my musing comes from the multiverse idea, other Universes out there with different physics and part from the fine tuned Universe idea

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11. ### exchemistValued Senior Member

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If gravitation were to vary, then stars would either blow up or go out, and life would not form. If the speed of light were to change, it would screw around with the wavelength of light and photosynthesis would not be able to evolve.

12. ### exchemistValued Senior Member

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So Max Shapiro/Tegmark would be out of a job. Oh dear. How Sad. Never mind.

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13. ### Write4UValued Senior Member

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I would dare say that all of science would be out of a job......

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14. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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Whaaat? So mathematics can't describe change over time? (delta t vanishes in a puff of logic.)

15. ### C CConsular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy"Valued Senior Member

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Ideally, it would be good to know the range of life forms that are possible in this universe under inhospitable conditions -- though that's probably knowledge that only posthumans could survive long enough to have a glimmer of (not us). If perchance there is no non-simple life elsewhere, then at first glance that would seem to all the more not bode well for rickety universes with disparaged parameters.

But it remains to be seen that even this supposed "delicately adjusted" universe really is profusely conducive to complex life arising and surviving in a variety of familiar and exotic circumstances. (And that's as in prior to adaptive technology and interstellar migration via the self-replicating machines and synthetic organisms of an advanced civilization interfering with the situation.)

We've had decades of numerous Sci Temple oracles divining on paper and computer that elaborate biological creatures are so thick in the Milky Way that you can't help but trip over them. Yet no examples to speak of.

Beyond one lonely orb with the chance convergence of a large Moon, plate tectonics, stable yellow sun, an oddball planetary system configuration, a rural location from violent events in the galactic interior, fortuitous evolutionary triggers, an atmosphere lacking the super-pressurization of similar-sized Venus's, etc.

Which is to say, this "paragon" cosmos of ours might instead be the bottom of the barrel when it comes to an assumed range of variables qualifying for a fine-tuned universe category. Heck, on the extreme side, vastly older or even more disorganized and poorly regulated realms could be the types abundant with wild fluctuations that are cranking out solipsistic Boltzmann brain like entities in extravagant quantities. Where such brute abiogenesis would render obsolete the incremental developments of processes transpiring over thousands, millions and billions of years.

Last edited: Oct 16, 2021
16. ### Michael 345New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldlValued Senior Member

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Being a thought experiment I have already indicated sentient beings do exist in this Universe. Perhaps the cause (unknown) of the change in speed of light prevents also prevents catastrophes happening

Remember it is NOT our Universe or our laws of physics changing. This is another Universe. If photosynthesis did / does not evolve, is there something else with in this different Universe which does evolve in its place?

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17. ### exchemistValued Senior Member

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Well, you make it rather a "how long is a piece of string?" question.

The basic point I think is that for life, varying physics would make chemistry itself doubtful and evolution practically impossible. And that is aside from the issue of whether stars would form and remain intact long enough to provide conditions amenable to life.

So if you make it a condition that gravitation and the speed of light are variable AND that there are nonetheless sentient beings, then you're on your own.

18. ### Write4UValued Senior Member

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We'll find out soon enough if we can survive just a minor deviation (+3C) in climate conditions, let alone different mathematics, if that is even logically possible.

19. ### James RJust this guy, you know?Staff Member

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On the question of what would happen if the constants of physics were different from what they actual are, the answer is: it depends.

We can imagine universes where the fundamental constants differ by a lot from their current values. For example, we could make the gravitational constant 1000 times greater than it is, or 1000 times smaller than it is, say. Or a million times. Or a billions times. At one extreme, all matter in the universe would immediate collapse into black holes and there could be no life. At the other extreme, matter would not clump together, so it would be impossible to form things like stars and planets, and again there would be no life. The situation is similar for lots of other fundamental constants; changing any of them sufficiently would probably resutl in a universe unable to support life, for one reason or another.

On the other hand, though, we could imagine the constants being allowed to vary a little from their current values, and that's a different ball game. So called "fine-tuning" arguments assert that if we adjusted just one of the constants by X amount then life would be impossible, so therefore God must have fine-tuned all of the constants to have just the right values to make life peachy for us human beings here on Earth. But the people who make that argument tend to forget that there are lots of different constants to adjust, and we don't necessarily need to adjust just one of them by itself.

If we allow the constants to vary in the right way - make gravity a little strong, make the speed of light a little smaller, make Planck's constant a little smaller, make the fine structure constant a bit bigger, etc. etc. - then probably we can "invent" lots of universes theoretically capable of supporting life. Those universes, with their different constants, will be different from our own, as will the life that lives in them, but there's no reason to suppose that something like life-as-we-know-it couldn't happily exist in them.

To summarise, there's most likely a reasonable volume of the available fundamental constant "phase space" in which the constants can be allowed to wander around and still give us a liveable universe. If that's true, then it would be wrong to say that our universe is especially "fine tuned" for life. Our universe just happens to be one of the many kinds of universes where life is possible.

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20. ### Michael 345New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldlValued Senior Member

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I was sort of hoping for a sort of response along the lines of how would a bunch of scientists react

With 3 different speeds of light, for example, would there be a group advocating the slowest should be the normal, a group for the middle range, a group for the fastest and a group saying all 3 speeds are our normal and we must look for the cause of the changes

Since the changes are haphazard I'm guessing experiments need to be set up to detect a wide range of possible causes

While I agree numerous, in this Universe, Laws of Physics can (might have) other values in other Universes I suspect that one set applies to all

Mundane and predictable

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21. ### Write4UValued Senior Member

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Is that the proper way of posing the question?

We can also look at this from the perspective that it is not the all of the Universe that is fine-tuned for life, but that life is fine-tuned to some of the Universe.

The fact is that the range of conditions "hospitable" for life is pretty large. Life occurs at the bottom of oceans near black smokers, in volcanic sulphur pools, in polar ice packs, in deserts, thousands of feet deep in the earth's crust, thousands of feet high in the mountains, in the air itself.

Bio-chemistry already occurs in stellar clouds.

How are stellar clouds formed?

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Unexpected chemicals detected in interstellar clouds
File: Diving into the Lagoon Nebula.ogv
View inside the Lagoon Nebula.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstellar_cloud

I would trust Hazen when he proposes that life may not necessarily depend on fine-tuned planetary conditions but on the availability of the raw chemicals that make up life.

Ask Louis Alamandola, NASA

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, one of the closest stars to the Earth. The oval is its light reflected from the ring of cosmic dust. Dust remains from comets and other space debris, randomly flying around. Every day, thousands of objects collide, break into small pieces and generate cosmic dust full of water and organic molecules. Large and small fragments eventually end up on the surface of young planets orbiting a young star. Fomalhaut's comet rain shows us how a late heavy bombardment could look.
https://geeks-world.imtqy.com/articles/409321/index.html

What are the Ingredients of Life?
By Natalie Wolchover February 02, 2011
https://www.livescience.com/32983-what-are-ingredients-life.html#

22. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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Most likely, by dying - went their component atoms went flying apart at the speed of light.

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23. ### Write4UValued Senior Member

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There is one organism that would do just fine under drastically varying conditions.
The Tardigrade may well come from space where natural selection prepared it with the ability to survive a variety of extreme conditions.

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Diane Nelson, a tardigrade researcher who works in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, used a scanning microscope to take this 3-D image of a tardigrade.(Image credit: NPS/Diane Nelson)

WHERE DO TARDIGRADES LIVE?