The Laws Of Physics Come From?
“… Stenger has written a fascinating and thought-provoking book…. It is
a feast for both the specialist and the dedicated general reader.”
“Symmetry is one of the central concepts in modern physics.
Unfortunately, it is also often misunderstood…. Victor Stenger’s very
readable new book will be helpful for anyone who wants a more realistic
understanding of symmetry, particularly in the context of the question
of where the laws of physics come from…. He brings out the excitement
in physics that comes from asking deep questions about how the world
—Taner Edis, author of Ghost in the Machine and Science and Nonbelief
and associate professor of physics at Truman State University
the Laws of Physics Come from?
In a series of remarkable developments in the twentieth century,
elementary particle physicists, astronomers, and cosmologists have
removed much of the mystery that surrounds our understanding of the
physical universe. They have found that the cosmos is, on the whole,
comprehensible. Of course, no one can claim to understand or explain
every facet of the structure of reality. However, we now have
theories--mathematical models--that describe the general character of
that reality. At this writing, these theories are consistent with all
observational data, including measurements of incredible precision.
While they will undoubtedly be superseded by better theories as science
continues to advance, the great success of current schemes makes it
likely that they are on the right track. The broad picture that is
drawn by modern particle physics and cosmology is very probably the way
nature is, and what we have yet to learn may be expected to fit
comfortably on its foundation--just as these sciences fit comfortably
on the foundation of Newtonian physics.
We now have a deep and revolutionary understanding of the true nature
of the mathematical quantities and theories of physics. We have
realized that they are basically human inventions, including the
notions of time and space. The quantities of physics are defined by how
we measure them. The laws of physics are not, as usually assumed,
restrictions on the behavior of matter--handed down from above or
somehow built into the logical structure of the Universe. Rather, they
are restrictions on the way that physicists may formulate their
Of course, the theories of physics must agree with observations. But,
beyond that, they are formulated in such a way as to assure that they
do not depend on any particular point of view. Otherwise they cannot be
expected to faithfully describe an objective reality. Stenger calls
this principle point-of-view
invariance, although it is known
technically as gauge invariance.
When this requirement is met, the most
basic principles of physics, as we know them, appear naturally.
Not everything in the Universe is thereby "explained." However, the
structural details of the Universe, including basic facts such as
particle masses and force strengths, can be understood as following
from an accidental process known as spontaneous symmetry breaking. The
origin of this structure may be likened to the origin of biological
structure, the combined result of tautological necessity, random
chance, and even some natural selection.
In the main text of this book, the arguments are laid out without
mathematical details so that general readers can grasp the gigantic
conceptual changes that have taken place over the last century.
Mathematical supplements at the undergraduate level of sophistication
are appended showing precisely how the basic principles of
physics--from Newtonian mechanics through relativity, quantum
mechanics, and the standard models of physics and cosmology--follow
from gauge invariance. A scenario for the natural creation of the
universe based on these well-established models is presented, along
with an explanation of why there is something rather than nothing.
Victor J. Stenger is adjunct professor of philosophy at
the University of Colorado at Boulder and emeritus professor of physics
and astronomy at the
University of Hawaii at Manoa. Before retiring to Colorado in 2000 he
spent 40 years doing reseach on elementary particle physics and
astrophysics. He is author of Has
Found God?, Timeless Reality,
The Unconscious Quantum, Physics and
Psychics, Not by Design,
and the New York Times 2007 bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis--How Science
Shows That God Does Not Exist.
“The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is
Do The Laws Of Physics Come From?
"V.J. Stenger . . . provides a scientific answer to the
question, 'where do the laws of physics come from?' Remarkably, his
elegant and mathematically detailed derivation of the laws is driven by
the requirment that the models physicists develop to describe objective
reality cannot depend on the standpoint of the observer."–Stephen Ames,
History and Philosophy of Science Programme, The University of
This paper contains a highly positive evaluation of my proposal.
Paper based on book. 3.4 Mb pdf.
PowerPoint 1.5 Mb. Original Keynote
presentation. Fonts may not match.
The Superposition Principle (pp. 83-84)
Excerpt showing how the superposition principle, which is responsible for quantum interference, follows from point-ov-view invariance.
See Table of Laws for
a list of the laws of physics and their sources.
All books have errors. Here I keep up to date all the corrections to
errors I find in my own reading and those found by readers.
Please don't hesitate to pass on any you might find.
A new printing has all but two of the errors corrected
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