General Question

ninjacolin's avatar

Have the laws of physics ever been broken to our knowledge?

Asked by ninjacolin (14224points) April 29th, 2009

this is a weird question i guess because we don’t fully understand ALL the laws of physics as yet. But so far, does all our science seem to suggest that nothing has ever broken the laws of physics?

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26 Answers

MrKnowItAll's avatar

No, however the GOP is trying to get SCOTUS to repeal the law of gravity (as their relevance plummets to the bottom of a black hole)

Ivan's avatar

Well, laws are generally just mathematical expressions that approximate how things work. Those expressions always have conditions and limits. So, for example, if you push Newton’s laws of motion to the extreme, they stop being accurate approximations. That doesn’t mean Newton’s laws are wrong, it just means they have limits just like every other law.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

The bumblebee was close.. but he got shot down by some weird theory that I can’t seem to find right now.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

When scientists come across something that seems to violate a law of physics, they tend to either scrap the old law or come up with a new one that incorporates or explains the anomalous occurrence. Quantum theory was the response to the failure of classical mechanics to explain interactions at the subatomic level. The “laws of physics” are constantly changing, but if something is generally recognized as a law, that usually means it has never, to our knowledge been broken.

However, I can think of once instance in which the apparently still-standing Law of Conservation of Energy appeared to have been broken, and that is in the case of matter-antimatter collisions. When an electron and a positron collide, the resulting energy comes out in a kind of 2 + 2 = 5 situation, that is, there is extra energy that basically suddenly “appears,” and physicists remain unclear as to where this energy comes from.

asmonet's avatar

It’s a law for a reason.

YARNLADY's avatar

No, when something seems to break a law of physics, it’s only because there was an error in translation.

Ivan's avatar


Right, it’s a law because it’s something that has been observed to be true. That doesn’t mean we will never find a situation in which it isn’t true. In science, laws can be “broken” under given conditions.

asmonet's avatar

Yeah, but then we rewrite like quark said.

The OP admitted to not fully grasping the idea in general. I linked him. I think that’s where his information should start from.

richardhenry's avatar

The bumblebee breaking the laws of physics thing is a myth; I was watching some thing on Discovery the other week.

Shuttle128's avatar

If you take Laws of Physics to mean the objective nature of reality….then no, it’s impossible by definition. You can’t do something other than what you can do. This is how I like to think of the phrase Laws of Physics.

If you mean our approximation of the Laws of Physics, as in the scientific models we use to predict physical behavior, then yes, they have multiple times. These breaking of the models lead to the founding of new theories to explain the phenomena that broke the models.

cookieman's avatar

Everytime I jog up a flight of stairs. Every damn time.

wundayatta's avatar

It is a closely held secret that the arch-criminal, known as Auntie Gravid Tea, once broke the speed of light, but he was captured, prosecuted, and thrown in the quantum prison, from which he has always never been able to escape. Of course, since the prison itself is not necessarily there, it may mean that the prisoner is not there, in which case the laws haven’t been broken—yet.

Never-the-less, the court remains Planck’s constantly vigilant, in case the laws of physics ever are broken. Prosecution will be swift and sure. Unless, of course, they aren’t.

upholstry's avatar

How does the bumblebee break the laws of physics?

Darwin's avatar

@upholstry – Because it flies when physicists say it shouldn’t be able to. However, physicists are fallible while properly derived equations including all the right variables are not.

Darwin's avatar

When I lived in Florida there was a young lady who discovered that she could break the laws of Florida but not the laws of physics. She didn’t believe that and so tried to do both at the same time with memorable (and painful) results, at least for me.

She made her boyfriend’s Camaro go airborne by going way too fast around a curve. Her car (actually his car) landed on the trunk of a large, low-slung sixties car with fins and its forward momentum allowed it to climb up the trunk and back window and leap off the roof of that car. Then the Camaro landed nose-down on the back half of mine.

However, she also discovered that pretty blonde girls with big blue eyes don’t get cited even though they don’t have their driver’s license on them.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

There is plenty about physics we have yet to discover. when we discover something new, the law isnt broken. A new law is discovered.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

@upholstry They used to say that there was no way a bumblebee could support its weight with such small wings or some such thing… that it defied physics by doing so (even though the bumblebees weren’t physics majors and had no problem flying despite it).

Of course there is now a theory about how they do it.. but I couldn’t seem to track it down. It has something to do with the way air circulates underneath their wings I think..

All in all, it’s at least a good lesson in “things aren’t always what they seem”.

cwilbur's avatar

Some esteemed physicist, in the early days of fluid dynamics, announced that it was impossible for a bumblebee to fly, because its wings were too small. His model of the bumblebee’s flight assumed that the wings were rigid the whole time. In fact, the bumblebee manages to fly because its wings are flexible.

So it’s not a case of a bumblebee not being able to fly because of the laws of physics. It’s a case of a physicist announcing that a bumblebee cannot possibly fly because he has no real understanding of how their wings work.

bea2345's avatar

The bumblebee is not a myth. It is aerodynamically unsound (which is not the same as saying that it cannot fly). All kinds of strange things happen. How does a Boeing passenger airline stay aloft? it has been explained to me many times, and I cannot absorb it. It is one of the reasons I dislike flying.

richardhenry's avatar

@bea2345 The bumblebee is real. ;) The debate was on the urban myth that specifically states “it should not be able to fly.”

bea2345's avatar

I stand corrected, @richardhenry, but I still have trouble with things like helicopters and behemoths like the big aircraft that ferry soldiers across the Atlantic. Balloons and blimps: now those are comprehensible.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, during the first 10^-43th second of our Universe.

CMaz's avatar

If you apply the laws of physics to the beginning of time. How does something come from nothing? There has to be a point that there is nothing to equally or oppose a reaction to. Their by void of physics .

mattbrowne's avatar

@ChazMaz – That part science cannot explain. There is hard evidence that science has limitations.

Ivan's avatar

That is only hard evidence that we don’t fully understand physics.

kess's avatar

Laws of physics were meant to govern our thinking, but not reality.

There is one Law and it is called Life and its very nature have already determined the laws of physics as null and void.

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