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Law of Conservation of Happiness

  1. Jul 5, 2012 #1
    Hi everyone!

    Do you believe that the laws of conservation of mass and energy apply to real life? Do you believe happiness cannot be created, just transformed in different forms? (so the total amount remains constant)

    If this implies that for one to be happy, another has to be unhappy, I find it very sad :x

    Edit: When I say "real life" what I really mean is experiences and feelings among us.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2012
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  3. Jul 5, 2012 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    Yes of course: they are laws about real life.
    Edit: So do I.
    In way - I can make someone happy by giving them a drug - but the syringe loses the drug... but that's not what you mean.

    The law of conservation of energy will apply to the mechanism of happiness - the energy that goes into producing the state has to come from someplace, but it need't come from making someone else less happy. For instance, a baby may transform food and attention into burbly happiness, which induces happiness in others (who burn food etc as a result). The total happiness increases.

    In general, when you come up with a proposition for scientific attention, it is a good idea to try figure out how you'd verify it experimentally ;)
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2012
  4. Jul 5, 2012 #3


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    The Beatles, expressing the Law of Conservation of Love?

  5. Jul 5, 2012 #4

    But I'm confused. If they burn food they will be unhappy about that. But maybe we can say that there is potential energy that is not being used to make people happy, it's like a stock in logistics. But if energy has a limit and everything is energy, hapiness will have a limit too?
  6. Jul 5, 2012 #5


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    This doesn't make any sense. There isn't a set amount of happiness in the universe and happiness isn't a thing that flows from one person to the next like teleporting MDMA. In fact changes emotional states are an excellent example of a non-zero sum game; the mechanism by which emotions work do not require someone else to get upset because I am happy even if the reason I am happy is because someone else is unhappy.

    Emotional states are an internal reaction to stimuli. "Happiness" is the product of the release of specific neurotransmitters (oxytocin, serotonin etc) in response to pleasure which is contextual based on the biology/psychology of the individual and the environment they find themselves in.

    Happiness is not a thing in itself, it is an emergent effect of human cognition brought about by how humans percieve their environment. So yes happiness is created and destroyed all the time. If Alice tells Bob she is sick then Bob will become unhappy, if Alice and Bob make love then they will become happy. It's as simple as that, humans reacting to their environment. There is no reason to think that when Bob hears the bad news happiness somehow leaves his head and floats around into someone else and the same applies to the reverse situation. We know that emotional states are a product of neurobiology, not some sort of self-distributing happiness field.
  7. Jul 5, 2012 #6
    Why didn't they ever win the Nobel Prize for that? It's because of the Law of Conservation of Intelligence: the more intelligent one person becomes, the stupider others must become. Thus, once you become smart enough to figure out a new conservation law, everyone else becomes too stupid to realize you deserve the Nobel Prize for it.
  8. Jul 5, 2012 #7

    Simon Bridge

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    One may be happy or unhappy about burning food but in order to be happy about anything you have to burn food. Law of conservation of energy.

    So happiness is limited in the sense that the Universe is limited ... ultimately: when there is nobody to be happy, the happiness has run out.

    Fundamentally, happiness is an emergent phenomina based in underlying physiological processes ... those processes are, fundamentally, energy conversion processes. Humans get their energy from food.

    As for the Beatles quote: they were asked about that line a lot and you can take your pick from what the the author (Paul) says was intended and what the others took from it. They boil down to: The pure love that you generate towards others comes back to you in equal measure. At the end of your life, the purity of your mind as reflected in the selfless love that you have generated in the past, attracts the corresponding positive forces, which help support you in the transition to your next life. Which matches the eastern influence on their music and philosophies at the time.

    I think this is getting over-analyzed :) next time come up with an experiment.
  9. Jul 5, 2012 #8
    Look: if all there is in the universe is energy, and this is limited, than there must be a limit in everything, including happiness. I hate to think this way, but you didn't prove that this idea was wrong :P
  10. Jul 5, 2012 #9

    Simon Bridge

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    @zoobyshoe: the Nobel Prize is rewarded to the discovery that is the most spectacularly wrong ... that's why. :D

    @luis20: but so what? It's like being sad that the solar system will only last billions of years.
    You can take heart that any time you are happy you are not taking happiness from someone else without knowing it.

    ... short answer: no. It's like asking if I believe that electricity cannot be created.

    Bottom line - off the first post:
    For one to be happy, does not imply another has to be unhappy.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2012
  11. Jul 5, 2012 #10
    So can I see the world this way:

    There is a constant amount of energy E in the universe, a percentage of this energy is being used in "happiness" (the good feelings we have), and we can increase this percentage, but there will be a limit !

    What do you think?
  12. Jul 5, 2012 #11
    I don't know. It bothers me. I would like to have a strong belief that we can increase the total happiness in this world. That we can make a better management out of this. But this idea is bothering me.

    Edit: See if you agree with what I wrote in the previous reply
  13. Jul 5, 2012 #12


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    On the contrary, I think that Ryan_m_b, by talking about the chemical nature of emotions, showed that you can be as happy or as sad as you are wont to be, depending on how you perceive your own circumstances, and that this necessarily (by the way it works) has absolutely no causal connection to other people's emotions (except those who are influenced by you through interactions, but that's not what we're talking about). There is no limit to the amount of happiness in the world and you can't "hog" the supply. I don't know why you would think that some sort of global conservation law would apply here. The only thing that limits it is if your body has enough resources to produce the necessary amount of neurotransmitters, and if it doesn't, you probably have some sort of serious health issue. (I imagine that these chemicals can also saturate, but that just limits the intensity of emotion that you could experience, so I would think).
  14. Jul 5, 2012 #13
    Suppose there was a conservation of happiness.
    Suppose I'm in a completely closed off room then I stub my toe, my happiness is lowered. Since the room is completely closed off it can't have affected anyone else so the total happiness has gone down, contradiction.
    Therefore happiness is not conserved.
  15. Jul 5, 2012 #14
    Seriously, there are unhappy people who look at happy people and come to the conclusion those happy people must have stolen their (the unhappy people's) happiness somehow. There's no physics to support this, it's distorted thinking arising from envy, or perhaps, envy arising from distorted thinking.

    Happiness often results from expending less energy, not more: relaxed people who take things in stride certainly rank higher on a happiness scale than those who get upset and angry about things all the time and end up chronically tensing their muscles.
  16. Jul 5, 2012 #15
    But if those neurotransmitters come from matter and energy, aren't they limited? Maybe our happiness is limited because food is limited because energy is limited.

    Hope you understand what I'm trying to say. If happiness is just a product of physical substances, I think it just supports this idea.
  17. Jul 5, 2012 #16


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    Sorry, this thread just ran out of energy.
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