Friday, January 20, 2023

Breaking the Law


Warm Sky, Cold Dawn

One way to look at it is, the universe broke the laws of physics. After the Big Bang, matter and antimatter should have been created in equal measure and cancelled each other out, but instead the symmetry between them was broken. Lucky for us, there was more matter than antimatter. One of the scientific terms for that matter-antimatter asymmetry illustrates the universe's law-breaking ways. That term is "charge-parity violation." 

Although Nobel Prizes have been won by scientists for discovering small-scale charge and parity violations, we still don't understand the large-scale violation that resulted in a universe that matters. Given the vast amount of energy that would be required to find out how it works experimentally, we might never be able to find the answer.

What I wondered, though, as I gazed into the pre-dawn sky while waiting for the crescent moon to rise (it came up too thin and too far south to photograph, alas), is what the universe would be like if there had been no violation. Suppose matter and antimatter did cancel each other out. Obviously, we would not be here to wonder about it, but if matter comprises only five percent of the universe, would the other ninety-five percent--the "dark matter"--still exist?

Would only a non-scientist such as myself ask such an impertinent question? I tried to google the answer with no luck. At least, not exactly. The most promising answer, to my mind, is that dark matter doesn't exist. Instead, we just need a new theory of gravity such as Milgromian dynamics (or Mond) which actually predicts the galactic shenanigans that dark matter was conjured up to try to explain.

I guess you can't really break the laws of physics. Matter-antimatter asymmetry happened, whether or not we ever figure out how. And Newton's law of gravitation, being a law written by a human, might need some tweaks to better explain our observations of galactic behavior.

I am in awe every day when I think about how deeply we have investigated the laws of nature, and the knowledge we have gained, even in my own lifetime. From the vastness of the cosmos to the intricacies of the subatomic realm, the more we learn, the more profound we find the mystery that remains. And that's even before we start talking about the greatest mystery of all, the mystery of life.


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