if you break the laws of physics…

What do we mean by breaking the laws of physics? And what happens if we do?

jailed rabbid

Breaking the laws of physics isn’t exactly like being caught for say, speeding. You won’t get a physics ticket or a summons to appear in physics court where the ghosts of Albert Einstein and Werner Heisenberg hit you on the head with their papers after they stop arguing with each other. You don’t get hauled off to physics jail with other theoretical lawbreakers where your punishment is to be confined to a quantum cell which fades in and out of the normal fabric of space-time, its wave function collapse lasting for only an hour a day, and an attempt to quantum tunnel yourself out will extend your sentence by an indeterminate amount of relative time. So what exactly do scientists and science writers mean when they talk about someone breaking the laws of physics?

Unlike regular old laws that exist to prevent us from doing things we can do but shouldn’t, the laws of science define everything that’s possible in this universe. They’re their own judge, jury and executioner and they make their decisions in less than a billionth of a second. All your attempts to break them anywhere other than your hypothetical framework will either fail or you’ll be torn into your constituent particles by the immense energies involved and scattered across countless light years. So if you successfully violated a scientific law and lived to tell the tale, it means that you found a mistake in how that law was recorded or got something wrong in one of your formulas and ended up with an utterly impossible solution to a theoretical problem.

But I have to say that a physics jail does sound like an interesting idea. It could safely house proponents of the pseudoscientific electric universe concept and the likes of Spike Psarris where they could do less damage to web surfers in search of real science. Maybe its warden could also partner with biologists and create a wing where ardent creationists would be sentenced to an eternity of watching organisms evolve. After all, there’s no worse punishment for a purveyor of woo than having to learn how the world really works…

# science // humor / physics / science education


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