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Can the laws of physics be violated?

  1. May 14, 2012 #1
    Hello. I read recently that the law of conservation of energy can be violated for very short time intervals, according to the uncertainty principle. Apparently, this fact gives rise to virtual particle production from the vacuum. Once we accept that the uncertainty principle allows the laws of physics to be broken, even for a very short time, then what is the uncertainty principle? Is it a law of physics, or a "super law" beyond all others? Most importantly, I want to know if the uncertainty principle allows the Pauli exclusion principle to be violated, if even for an extremely short time. According to the principle, if all electrons in the universe are "aware" of the quantum states of all other electrons, what happens when virtual particles are randomly created close enough to an electron in an atom to affect its energy? (The Lamb shift is proof that virtual particles have a real impact on the energy levels of atoms). If the exclusion principle cannot be violated at all, then spacetime itself has to "be aware" of the quantum states of all electrons contained within it to make sure that the virtual particles it produces do not impart energy to an electron so that its new energy coincides with the energy that any other electron in the universe already possesses. What are your thoughts on this?

    Thank you in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 14, 2012 #2


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    I've seen that claim many times in popular-science literature, but it is simply a nonsense. Total energy is exactly conserved in quantum mechanics, even during a short time.
  4. May 14, 2012 #3


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    Please read this entry in the FAQ subforum in the General Physics forum:

    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=511176 [Broken]

    Furthermore, "I read recently" is not an acceptable source citation. We require that sources be clearly cited. If this is from a paper, cite the author, journal, volume, and page number. If this is from a book, cite author, title of book, and page number. If this is from a TV show, cite title, channel, and date, etc... etc.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. May 14, 2012 #4

  6. May 14, 2012 #5
    Huh. I'd always thought of the two viewpoints (thanks, I now realize that one relies on energy being well-defined at all times, which it isn't) as different interpretations of the same observations.

    And my thoughts about how this ties in with force carriers right now are "That's clever, Universe."
  7. May 14, 2012 #6
    What if you remember as an absolute fact that you read it in a book that was not specifically said to be bs or a tv show like nova but you can't find the episode since you'd have to pay for it?
  8. May 14, 2012 #7
    Then do a google search first.
  9. May 15, 2012 #8


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    And you trust your memory THAT much? Remember, you are reading or hearing something UNFAMILIAR, probably for the FIRST time. Do you think you heard or read it correctly, AND remember it accurately? Shall I show you instances where the human memory can play amazing tricks?

    Requesting everyone to remember and cite the source forces that person to pay attention to the source and the nature of the source! If you learn nothing else from PF, learning to pay attention to the nature and quality of the source that you get all your information from is a valuable-enough lesson to make this forum worthwhile.

  10. May 15, 2012 #9
    Well personally if my memory is fuzzy then I would say it, but otherwise it should be legitimate if your like, 99% sure unless there's some direct law of physics that says it's impossible.
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