Talk:Physical law

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Neutrality about universal laws[edit]

The section "Description" is a nonneutral point of view. The rest of the article is not as bad, but still mostly carries a subtle bias in favor of the existence of universal, eternal, absolute laws. For example, even the sentence which suggests we might not know the ultimate physical laws still assumes the existence of physical laws in the sense put forth under "Description". Critical 02:01, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)

About Users Critical and CStar[edit]

For the record, the user Critical ( talk, contributions), who slapped the "disputed NPoV" sticker on this page, has made his or her first edits tonight (or today) and within less than two hours has attacked eight articles for PoV, including (ironically given the CStar example given on the Logical fallacy talk page), Physical law. These were the only "edits" (plus weak justifications on talk pages in the same vein as this one). I don't think the PoV claim has merit. We may ask if this series of attacks is to be taken seriously.

For the following reasons I am thinking that these pages has been the victim of a tiresome semi-sophisticated troll and the PoV sticker should be removed sooner rather than later, if not immediately. We may note that CStar ( talk, contributions) after making edits, paused during the period user Critical made edits, and then CStar took up responding to these edits after the series of user Critical edits ends, as if there is only one user involved, and the user logged out, changed cookies and logged back in. Further, user CStar left a note on Charles Matthew's talk page, Chalst's talk page, and Angela's talk page pointing to a supposed PoV accusation placed on the Logical argument page, when in fact no such sticker has been placed. Perhaps the irony regarding the Physical law page is not so ironic. Hu 05:18, 2004 Dec 1 (UTC)

I have responded to this on the logical fallacy talk page, as well as on the pages of the above mentioned users. It does appear that these pages were as Hu suggests the victim of a tiresome semi-sophisticated troll. But I wasn't the perpetrator. This suggestion appears to have been an honest mistake, I consider the matter closed, and it appears that Hu does as well. CSTAR 01:41, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Knowledge and epistemology[edit]

I wasn't aware of this page until the little incident alluded to by the above discussion brought it to my attention. Now that I'm here though I do have some remarks about the article (Yikes but I won't dare touch it)

  • Doesn't the first paragraph mix two things which should be separate? (1) What is a physical law is and (2) how we obtain physical laws.

Now it is arguable that one can't meaningfully separate the two. I don't think I believe that, but I'm certain willing to listen to an argument in favor of this.

  • Do physical laws have to be generalizations? If so, how general do they have to be? Generality does seem to be a desirable property of physical laws, but again I don't think this really gets to the heart of the matter. Some kid discovering the principle that toys fall when let go, has discovered a physical law.
  • The properties of physical laws listed in the Description section, should have more clearly identified source attribution, that is some comment such as
  • Universality (R. P. Feynman, The Feynman lectures on XYZ, 1971).
Some of these I find hard to believe can be attributed to the sources mentioned. For instance, the property of Omnipotence to Feynman? Maybe, but I find it hard to swallow that he would have said something like that.

CSTAR 17:28, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

References are now clearly distinguished.--Johnstone 14:32, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Physical laws and scientific laws fall under the same general heading and could usefully be merged into one entry. I suggest that it is important to realise that the word 'law' does not fit comfortably with today's use of the word. Scientific 'laws' do not prescribe the behaviour of the world/universe/system/phenomenon. Scientific 'laws' are descriptive, not prescriptive. eg objects do not obey Newton's laws of motion. Newton's laws of motion describe the behaviour of objects. I suggest that this is an important distinction. (TCooper)

Movable type[edit]

What is a "movable type" law of nature?

The distinction seems spurious, at least without further clarification and some reference. Statistical laws can also be laws of nature; many well-known laws are.CSTAR 14:00, 3 Mar 2005 (UTC)

A Confusing Sentence, and Concerning the Usage of "Law"[edit]

"Some of the more famous laws of nature are found in Isaac Newton's theories of (now) classical mechanics, presented in his Principia Mathematica, and Albert Einstein's theory of relativity."

How does that make sense, especially given what the paragraph above it states? A law is not the same as a theory. --Apostrophe 18:47, 8 September 2005 (UTC)

Despite what I write here, I see no great error in the article. It accurately describes the subject in the context of its typical usage. I guess I am only interested whether there is sufficient objection (other than mine, as I will describe) to the semantics of the phrase "physical law" to include noting such an objection in the article.

There is an argument to be made, perhaps elsewhere, for a return to at least a weakly more positivist perspective in scientific discussions; here, I only ask whether there is avoidable confusion, identified by Apostrophe, in comparing "physical law," an historical verbal construction, with "theory," which is a more modern and more meaningful formalism.

The reason the sentence Apostrophe cites makes no sense (Apostrophe is right to question it) is that the usage of the word "law" in this context has a metaphorical, social and literary source, rather than a source in the practice of scientific enquiry. The usages "physical law," "scientific law," "law of nature" and so on descend to us from the period when Western thinkers and investigators- in the process of developing techniques of reductionist enquiry- presumed a supernatural world where "natural lawgiving" entities existed. One goal of enquiry about the world, for them, was to ever more clearly describe the nature of such esoteric "laws" that are followed by the natural world, these laws being prescribed from outside of nature.

Whether or not a supernatural lawgiver exists, the presumption of the supernatural (including "irreducible complexity" and so on) is no longer part of scientific enquiry. But the metaphorical usage, "law," remains embedded throughout the literature, especially throughout the "meta-literature," that is, that literature that seeks to relate the practice of science, scientific ideas and the current state of scientific enquiry to non-scientists, and that that is used to teach science.

The continued use of this word seems to be a problem. One sees that "laws" are made by people, obeyed by people, flaunted by people, ignored by people, enforced by people, altered or abolished by people, to prescribe the behavior of people. People may invoke supernatural inspiration for the laws they prescribe, of course. No one has ever received a ticket for breaking a "physical law."

Continuing to use "law" in this way also invites the intrusion into scientific discourse- through the exploitation of what amounts to an archaic, misleading metaphor- of new avatars of old supernatural ideas, unnecessarily implying as the usage does the existence of an associated sentient "lawgiver." Few who now invoke the phrases "law of nature" or "physical law" intend this.

It would be helpful if the use of "law" in this context were just abandoned. It makes no sense to describe the more or less regular way in which objects in the world behave by resorting to such loaded social metaphors. It doesn't take much thinking to find alternate, less baroque phrases that would serve just as well; "observed basic nature;" "natural behavior;" "basic behaviours;" "observed fundamental behaviors;" "fundamental natural behavior" and so on. These examples aren't devoid of metaphor (maybe only organisms "behave?") or undesirable suggestion of unapparent hierarchy, but they're descriptive and pretty neutral. Smarter people can do better, I'm sure.

If the NSF and the NCSE and other entities who seek to clarify the distinction between "science" and "not science" were to urge that we abandon these archaic terms (including also the oxymoron "scientifically proved" for the meaningful and more accurate "clearly and convincingly supported by evidence" and so on) and substitute others that (in English, anyway) are more neutral, I predict the chief objections would come from those who desire to continue to insert supernatural cause and other "not science" propaganda into science curricula. Eliminating the semantic quagmire these terms instigate would be a simple step toward clarity, reducing confusion in the minds of those who mistake metaphor for synonym. Have you ever noticed, listening to or reading discussions aimed at lay persons of theories of a multiple-dimensional world, how the notion of "dimension" as described by a physicist (who means by this something like "linearly independent degree of freedom") is obviously misinterpreted to mean something else entirely by many in the audience (something instead like "an alternate physical world, where Spock has a beard")?

I fear I've gone too long. I'm new to Wikipedia. The question is whether the article can support a (short) linguistico-philisophico critique addressing Apostrophe's question? Or, whether such an objection is so insignificant that it should not be attached. Rt3368 00:05, 29 April 2006 (UTC)

in the vein of what Rt3368 has addressed in the above, well-spoken and long-winded monologue, I would like to (briefly) bring forth and put very strong emphasis, if i may, on a very important fact that needs to be taken into consideration by all, and within the article of discussion as well...

==Laws as definitions== Those laws which are just mathematical definitions (say, fundamental law of mechanics - second Newton's law ), or uncertainty principle, or least action principle, or causality - are absolutely correct (simply by definition). They are extremely useful - because they can not be violated nor falsified.

I have personally falsified the state of "absolute" correctness of these statements-- simply by writing this comment. In fact, the moment I-- or anyone-- doubted the correctness of these statements, they were immediately falsified. There is only ONE Truth, ONE principle that is correct in the absolute regarding Science, and that is that NOTHING in Science is EVER correct in the absolute.
I think I will leave it at that.
Moosa17 05:52, 24 July 2007 (UTC)

Laws as Idealizations[edit]

in the laws as approximation section, where would laws like say, the Gas Laws fit into the various types mentioned? they are not precisely an approximation, because they are exact if applied to an ideal gas, the only snag being that in real life there aint no such thing, leaving one with the uneasy feeling that rather than the law being the approximation, it is the real stuff out there that is regarded as an approximation to the ideal.


Tag added by —Preceding unsigned comment added by ClairSamoht (talkcontribs) 23:42, 28 September 2006

Removed absurd veri policy tag. The article is referenced. What is the problem? Please specify your objections rather than slapping an absurd tag on the page - Communicate! Vsmith 00:11, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

Not all laws are physical laws[edit]

What about the law of natural selection??--Filll 07:53, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

What about it? This article is about physical laws, clearly distinguishing it from other-than-physical laws. Xihr 09:06, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
Unfortunately, scientific law redirects here.--Filll 12:40, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Doubtful about recent edits[edit]

They look like unsourced OR to me, and personal rants. Comments?--Filll 21:18, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

'Stable' or 'Eternal'[edit]

The section about the character of laws of nature notes that laws are 'stable', yet the source used (Davies, 1992:83) worded this stronger: 'Eternal'. I must say I prefer the word 'stable'. However, 'stable' has a 'temporary' ring that 'eternal' does not have: Did laws become stable? Can they become unstable? etc.

My impression is that quite some scientists might go with the word 'eternal' yet quite some philosophers and physical cosmologists might go with the word 'stable'. What do you think? --Matti 09:17, 11 March 2007 (UTC)

Unsupportable "Distinctions?"[edit]

This article seems better now than the last time I read it. The second paragraph attempts to define a difference in usage between "physical law" and "religious law," "civil law" and so on. This distinction is properly repeated elsewhere in the article.

What's missing is a critique on the appropriateness of the use of "law" at all. Despite Feynman, et. al., "law" is a problem because it implies lawgiver. In 1965, this colloquialism had little moment. Today, particularly in the U.S., its moment is greater. In 1965, Richard Feynman could get away with derisiveness with respect to the analysis of "vilozoverz." In the era of Antonin Scalia, that dismissiveness is dangerous.

I have trouble with the distinction made, under the heading "Description", between "physical law" and "theory", that "Scientific theories are generally more complex than laws" and so on. This seems to be an arbitrary distinction. Newton's "Laws" of Motion (to use an over-cited example) are no more "simple" than Maxwell's equations (in say, the form of the Heaviside Four), and we refer to this representation as a theory. Similarly, the distinction between "that a thing happens" and "why and how a thing happens" isn't very compelling. I don't think that Quantum Electrodynamics explains at all "why" any of the behaviors it predicts happen.

This confusion results directly from trying to explain the use of a misleading, anachronistic "custom" of usage- a language game that was lost a long time ago and that now only invites comparison of an implied Lawgiver with Lawgiver(s) of revealed truth described in religious texts and traditions. No such comparison is warranted, but it entices.

The only thing we see in our observations are a great deal of phenomena that may be approximately described by more or less complex mathematical relations. That is beautiful and powerful and useful enough. The use of colloquial language like "Law" is both inadequate and misleading.Rt3368 18:52, 2 April 2007 (UTC)

Expert needed[edit]

What constitutes a physical/scientific law is a topic in philosophy, specifically metaphysics and philosophy of science. Yet no relevant philosophers or specific theories on the subject appear to be cited in the article; it doesn't even mention Hume. (Feynman was a physicist, but not exactly a specialist in this area. The study of what constitutes a physical law is rather different from the study of the laws of physics.) This article definitely needs some attention from someone versed in the subject. I have added a notice to this effect.

Incidentally I don't think this article should be in WikiProject Physics. 'Physical law' is not the same as 'law of physics' - any scientific law is a 'physical law'. And (to repeat myself) the study of what constitutes such laws is not really part of physics. (Physics aims to work out the particular laws of physics that obtain in this universe.) Ben Finn 18:39, 3 April 2007 (UTC)

I agree that the article ought not be in WikiProject Physics. But no scientific enquiry is rightly interested in any sort of 'law of physics' or any other sort of 'law'. Laws are made and enforced by lawgivers who are either persons or deities. The natural world- our observations of which are an object of scientific enquiry- is a collection of perhaps interconnected phenomena which exhibit more or less regular dynamic or static aspects. That's all. "Laws of Motion", "Laws of Thermodynamics", the "Gas Laws" etc. are merely anachronistic, colloquial, parochial and historical usages. No one ever had to pay a fine for breaking Newton's "Laws". Trying to explain this away by saying "By `Physical Law' we don't mean anything like `civil law'..." and so on is unsatisfying. What we really mean when we use this word, "law" in this way is that we are respecting what Hume (I agree he's the one to cite rather than Feynman) would identify as mere historical "custom". It is a custom moreover with no scientific value. Rt3368 22:16, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Equally, the categorization of this article as part of WikiProject Physics is mere custom. Rt3368 22:16, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Seems to me this article is categorised that way because physicists regard the term "Physical law" as being a synonym for "Law of physics". I'm sure most members of the general public would agree. Moreover, the text of the article reflects the usage in physics, except for a sentence someone added to the lead. If you want an article describing the usage of "Physical law" in philosophy, write your own and add a disambiguation; don't vandalise this one. PaddyLeahy 07:54, 9 May 2007 (UTC)

I haven't vandalized anything and don't intend to do so. The article already strays very far indeed into "philosophy", as it stands. If the article said essentially,

"Physical Law is a colloquialism used in the sciences to refer to relations that are more or less regular between measurable physical phenomena. It is a designation used to identify relations of this type that are considered particularly useful for scientific enquiry, important and profound."

If all the article said was something like the above, then I would strongly agree with it and agree that it was an appropriate entry for WikiProject Physics.

Instead, we have a "Description" section with appeal to authority (Feynman, et. al.); invocations of "beauty" and "simplicity" etc. which are utterly subjective; we invoke a puzzling demarkation between "Physical Law" and "theory" which is entirely arbitrary:

"Physical laws are distinguished from scientific theories by their simplicity. Scientific theories are generally more complex than laws; they have many component parts..."

We add to these the philosophically-loaded attribute of "truth" ("`Physical Laws' are true." What does this mean?). This is followed close-on by the section "Laws as approximations"- and of course approximations can be true- but which includes

"...laws which are just mathematical definitions... are absolutely correct (simply by definition)... they can not be violated nor falsified..."

Really? Let us consult our Popper and Quine. The example (force equals the first time derivative of momentum) isn't a mathematical identity. It's a statement that a regular relation is observed between independently measurable physical quantities.

Then we have, in the section "Origin of laws of nature",

"So to large extent laws of nature are not laws of nature per se..."

Good grief.

I don't think I can reasonably be accused of introducing "philosophy" into the article (since I have never altered it) or of threatening to do so. I'm unsatisfied with the squishy writing, examples of which I've mentioned here. I don't think the article is at all clear. If it just said something like what I wrote above, "a colloquialism used in the sciences..." and so on, or something a little more elaborate, it would be clear.Rt3368 18:20, 22 May 2007 (UTC)

Overlap with similarly-named article[edit]

I notice there is a separate article Laws of science (?previously and more accurately called List of laws of science), about the particular physical laws that obtain in this universe (rather than what constitutes a physical law). It seems to be some of this article could be moved there, and perhaps that article or this one renamed, so as to distinguish between the two more clearly. I'd suggest that one article be purely about the actual laws, and the other (this one) purely about what constitutes a law (i.e. this article with improvements as discussed above). This article could be renamed 'Law of nature' (or perhaps 'Scientific law'), which is I believe is a more usual term in philosophy, and removes the potential confusion that the term 'Physical law' is not limited to laws of physics. Ben Finn 15:27, 27 May 2007 (UTC)


Laws of nature are not just "true", as it used to say in the article. For example Newton's law of gravity is only an approximation to Einstein's more exact general theory of relativity. It works very well in a broad class of situations, but it is completely wrong in some. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:10, 20 February 2008 (UTC)

The Wikipedia entry on Science points out that scientific knowledge is for ever open to debate and modification, by its very nature. True or false are not suitable terms. Scientific 'fact' is information that has been rigorously tested according to the principles of scientific enquiry. Once adequately tested, they are considered 'proven' but always remain open to further investigation and debate. Newton's law of gravity is indeed an excellent example of this. See : Scientific Method. (T Cooper)

Merge from Scientific law[edit]

Scientific law was proposed for deletion on the following grounds by User: "In my opinion, this overlaps almost completely with Physical law, but is much more poorly written and not as complete. Perhaps the paragraph beginning 'The term "scientific law" is' could be salvaged and merged."

On that basis I'm suggesting it should be merged here before being considered for deletion. I think expert opinion is probably needed…  —SMALLJIM  15:19, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

  • Support. Seems reasonable to me, and there's not much point in having two separate articles on it with so much overlap. Xihr (talk) 19:51, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
  • Weak Oppose. There is a valid difference here, there are (apparently) scienctific laws in social sciences. Having never done any social sciences I can't comment on them but it would be a bit out of place to have a section on social science laws in an article title "Physical law". I would be happy with a section like that as a interm measure until it is expanded enough to warrant a seperate article. So perhaps create a section in Physical Law on social science laws and put the expand tag in it. --Shniken1 (talk) 03:56, 29 February 2008 (UTC)
  • Very Weak Oppose. The point above is very well taken. Had I not read it, I could have voted a very strong support, simply because 'Scientific Law', which should be a very large article in a series that comprises the foundations of science, is (in my opinion) short, vague, painful, and was very incorrect until recently. However, I use 'physical' solely for the sciences of physics and chemistry, based upon equality; and 'natural' for the very many other sciences based upon equivalence. It might be best to fix (completely rewrite) 'scientific law' so its many definitions catch the essence of its uses by natural scientists, un-natural scientists :-) (sociologists), and others; then graft a definition catching the essence of 'physical law' to it, with a link pointing here. Geologist (talk) 09:23, 18 March 2008 (UTC)
If there is still an generally useful, experimental Law of Dulong & Petit and a theoretical law of Stefan-Boltzman, older geologists used 'law' in the same manner as physical scientists (though they often used 'rule' as a synonym). However, having recently learned that the consensus of biologists reverse observation and theory in naming animals, I can't write of the use of 'law' by any other natural science. Geologist (talk) 10:01, 18 March 2008 (UTC)
  • Oppose JAF1970 (talk) 20:33, 4 July 2008 (UTC)
  • Oppose fcsuper They have common subsets, but are not equal sets. The Scientific Law article needs a rewrite though. I think the reason these articles are so poorly addressed in Wikipedia is that the people who use such terms do not use them consistently or consider there to be some noteworthy official definition in distinction. They are just terms employed. Law in science has changed in meaning over the past 200 years according to its use. There really is no official hierarchy of terms that many people imagine. --Fcsuper (talk) 16:10, 6 July 2008 (UTC)
Given the results here and the age of this merger request, I propose removing the merger tag and closing this matter. --Fcsuper (talk) 05:24, 15 July 2008 (UTC)
Agreed. The consensus is obviously not there; I'm removing it. Xihr (talk) 09:41, 16 July 2008 (UTC)

Physical laws elsewhere[edit]

There should be a section discussing the possibility of the law of physics being different elsewhere in the universe. JAF1970 (talk) 20:33, 4 July 2008 (UTC)

If you have a creditable source for this, sure; but, I don't think you'll find one. Possibilities of General Relativity make it possible that time runs at different rates in different regions in relation to each other, and I think that's the closest factual statement you'll find to that effect. --Fcsuper (talk) 04:42, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
Since it's pure speculation, it would likely have WP:UNDUE problems. Furthermore, much of our basis of understanding of the laws of physics is based on precisely the notion that they do not vary around the Universe, so it's questionable on its face. Xihr (talk) 04:51, 7 July 2008 (UTC)

Subsection "Description"[edit]

This section contains unsupportable assertions. For example:

  • Simple. They are typically expressed in terms of a single mathematical equation.

That seems to rule out an algorithm, for example.

It also contains "weasel words" like "apparently must comply", "Generally conservative", "appears to affect them", "appear to apply everywhere". (I guess if I look out the window and see no violation, the law appears to apply everywhere, for now., eh?)

These very vague terms are unacceptable in any article pretending to be authoritative, and not just a tabloid presentation. Read Nagel. Brews ohare (talk) 16:24, 13 September 2008 (UTC)

Is Newton's 2nd law just a definition? Feynman's take[edit]

I disagree with the idea that a law of nature can be just a definition. A definition can't tell us anything about the world, the way a law is supposed to. The following passage from Feynman is interesting in this regard. There is more to it that you may want to read which I haven't typed here. I propose that this article be changed accordingly.

This is from Chapter 12, section 1 (volume 1) of Feynman's Lectures on Physics.

Let us ask, "What is the meaning of the physical laws of newton, which we write as F=ma? What is the meaning of force, mass, and acceleration?" Well, we can intuitively sense the meaning of mass, and we can define acceleration if we know the meaning of position and time. We shall not discuss those meanings, but shall concentrate on the new concept of force. The answer is equally simple: "If a body is accelerating, then there is a force on it." That is what Newton's laws say, so the most precise and beautiful definition of force imaginable might simply be to say that force is the mass of an object times the acceleration. Suppose we have a law which says that the conservation of momentum is valid if the sum of all the external forces is zero; then the question arise, "What does it mean, that the sum of all the external forces is zero?" A pleasant way to define that statement would be: "When the total momentum is a constant, then the sum of the external forces is zero." There must be something wrong with that, because it is just not saying anything new. If we have discovered a fundamental law, which asserts that the force is equal to the mass times the acceleration, and then define the force to be the mass times the acceleration, we have found out nothing. We could also define force to mean that a moving object with no force acting on it continues to move with constant velocity in a straight line. If we then observe an object not moving in a straight line with a constant velocity, we might say that there is a force on it. Now such things certainly cannot be the content of physics, because they are definitions going in a circle. Thew Newtonian statement above, however, seems to be a most precise definition of force, and one that appeals to the mathematician; nevertheless, it is completely useless, because no prediction whatsoever can be made from a definition. One might sit in an armchair all day long and define words at will, but to find out what happens when two balls push against each other, or when a weight is hung on a spring, is another matter altogether, because the way the bodies behave is something completely outside any choice of definitions."

From the same section: "In the same way, we cannot just call F = ma a definition, deduce everything mathematically, and make mechanics a mathematical theory, when mechanics is a description of nature." —Preceding unsigned comment added by Singularitarian (talkcontribs) 22:37, 4 June 2009 (UTC)

Origin of laws of nature section needs attention[edit]

The entire section "Origin of laws of nature" seems questionable to me. I don't believe that Newton's 2nd law, the principle of least action, Schroedinger's equation, the uncertainty principle, and causality are just definitions. At the very least, this is a controversial claim and should not just be stated as a fact. (See the passage from Feynman I quoted above, discussing Newton's 2nd law.)

This section then claims that most physical laws arise from certain symmetries of space, time, etc. But who says that the universe obeys those symmetries? There are physical laws that say the universe obeys certain symmetries. And where did these laws come from? We don't know.

The section claims that "the search for the most fundamental law(s) and most fundamental object(s) of nature is synonymous with the search for the most general mathematical symmetry group that can be applied to the fundamental interactions." These things are not "synonymous". Lots of physicists are not even taking this approach in their search for fundamental laws.

Then the section goes off topic:

The application of these laws to our needs has resulted in spectacular efficacy of science – its power to solve otherwise intractable problems, and made increasingly accurate predictions. This in turn resulted in design and implementation of variety of reliable transportation and communication means, in building more quality and affordable shelters, in creating variety of drugs, in finding new energy sources, in developing variety of entertainments, etc.

That passage has grammar flaws and is irrelevant to the topic of the "origin of laws of nature".

I propose that this whole section be either removed or completely rewritten.--Singularitarian (talk) 22:55, 4 June 2009 (UTC)

Summary of Physical Laws, landing page[edit]


Rather than emphasizing meta-conversations, what I wanted to find in under three clicks from a search engine is:

(a) a summary of the physical laws by name, containing no meta,

(b) links to pages that state more info on each law - ie. what the law is, as a physics student doing review would want to read, not hypothetically what distinguishes physical laws from arbitrarily man-made laws as a person who never took a single science course would be interested in reading.

(c) Mention of the mathematics and axioms that are relevant to the actual physical laws (not conversations about them), should have links to actual, specific mathematics and actual, specific axioms, rather than links to meta-conversations about what an axiom probably seems to be in layman's terms.

Specific information is considerably more valuable than meta-content. For example, this page ~ ~ is content-rich. A content-rich page on the Laws of Physics would be very well received.

JenniferOverington (talk) 16:45, 31 October 2009 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by JenniferOverington (talkcontribs) 16:38, 31 October 2009 (UTC)

The laws of nature.[edit]

The saying ‘the laws of physics’ means that group of the laws which govern the material space time with its content of matter, electromagnetism and gravity. It is less clear whether ‘the laws o physics’ includes the immaterial space time with its contents of minds, memory and the conscious observers. Expression ‘the laws of nature’ has this advantage over the expression ‘the laws of physics’ that it can contain both groups of the laws because ‘nature’ is near the expression ‘behavior’ which relates to the behavior of the units in both space times. The laws of nature manifest themselves when there is a change in a unit. However, the laws define the kind of change when the unit is in static state after the change. Comparing the organization before and after the interaction we get the difference which defines the kind of change called the law of nature either in the material or in the immaterial space time. Distance in time between the two observations is the magnitude of time measured with the observers unit of consciousness ‘now’. Space and time also change so that the laws of nature apply also to the space times. When a unit is static and it is observed from the outside, it manifests static laws of nature. It will change only when it is in interaction with an independent motivation from the outside. Motivation is neutral and independent from the laws of nature but the changes which it causes are directed by the laws of nature defined by the properties of the interacting units. The interaction and the resultant change, brings to existence new laws of nature. The first and the most important law of nature is the static unit which is only one unit on its own. The unit only exists without non-existence and it is the most important law, in the plurality of the laws of nature. This one law applies to all the various units. The law is the static and invariable ‘One’. This first law contains within itself Nothingness ‘0’ and the totality of ‘1’. The ‘One’ contains itself and simultaneously it is within itself. It defines every unit which is always (the beginning-the interval of existence-the end) in the unlimited plurality (oo) of repetitions of the One. One is also every unit of limited internal plurality ‘c’ in (0<c<oo). All the units ‘c’ are on the outside of ‘0’, which is the ‘beginning’ and the ‘centre’ of each ‘c’ but every ‘c’ is inside of (oo). The limited plurality ‘c’ contains parts, each part a different limited plurality but the same organization. Each part is a different law of nature because it is different from every one of the remaining parts and different from the centre ‘0’, but only when observed from the inside as limited plurality ‘n’ within the limited plurality ‘c’ in (0<n<c). In turn ‘n’ consists of ‘p’ parts in (0<p<n) and so on until the ‘part’ is ‘1’ so that ‘1’ is the ‘end’ and the interval (0<1). In each point within the unlimited plurality (oo) there is a beginning ‘0’ acting as the boundary between two units or parts. The medium contained within (0<1) is the duality of the Nothingness ‘0’ and the observer ‘1’ who defines each unit irrespective of the internal limited plurality or organization of that plurality. When the observer ‘1’ exists there is no Nothingness ‘0’ and when the observer non exists Nothingness ‘0’ is not observed by the observer, so that there is only the eternal observer who only exists as the duality of existence nonexistence. The duality depends on the observer because only he is motivated by that which he observes in his ‘now’, when the observed unit is in static state. Motivation allows the observer placement of the boundary of Nothingness in a new point of the medium. The boundaries ‘0’ are all identical as Nothingness. The Nothingness does not change as the property of the observer, which is his ‘I’. Internal change or external change of a unit into two units is carried out within the boundary which contains motivation arising out of the difference manifesting the lack of equilibrium. KK ( (talk) 09:24, 12 July 2010 (UTC))

Being reader-friendly[edit]

I suggest we merge the "Notes" and "References" -parts. In that way we can use footnotes (or whatever they're called on wikipedia) instead of putting the sources in parentheses; especially the "Description" is annoying to read with the sources in parentheses all the time. Please say whether you agree or not, I don't want to edit it before. Mottenen (talk) 14:17, 2 January 2011 (UTC)

I agree - the attributions to Davies and Feynman get in the way of what the section is trying to tell the reader. Put reference numbers after each statement like normal articles, please.

Esoteric cybernetic (talk) 12:47, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

Terminological mess (physical/scientific laws)[edit]

We have several articles about "physical laws", depending on how that term is interpreted. In addition to this article, we have Scientific law.

This article explains that "physical law" is ambiguous and could mean either "law of physics" or more generally "law of natural science":

Nor should "physical law" be confused with "laws of physics" - the term "physical law" usually covers laws in other sciences (e.g. biology) as well.

The lead also implies that "physical law" and "scientific law" are synonymous:

A physical law or scientific law is [...]

That "physical law" could mean "law of natural science" is more explicitly stated in Laws of science:

The laws of science are various established scientific laws, or physical laws as they are sometimes called.

Scientific law similarly explains that "scientific law" is ambiguous and could mean either "law of natural sciences" or more generally "law of sciences":

The term "scientific law" is traditionally associated with the natural sciences, though the social sciences also contain laws.

At first sight, I would say this article appears to be about laws of natural sciences. I would also say that Scientific law appears to be about laws of natural sciences. If that is the intended situation, then both articles should be merged. However, this proposition was rejected before, some arguing that Scientific law is broader than this article because it is about laws of science in general (including social sciences; see #Merge_from_Scientific_law).

Currently, Laws of physics and Laws of nature redirect here. Natural law (disambiguation) points to this article, not to Scientific law.

We need to decide how the overlapping topics of laws of physics, laws of natural science and laws of science should be covered, how the articles dedicated should be titled and how to proceed. Physical law should either cover just laws of physics or be renamed. See also #Expert_needed. --Chealer (talk) 19:07, 5 March 2012 (UTC)

I agree, I landed here by the redirect "Laws of physics". Not exactly (at all!) what I was looking for. Ssscienccce (talk) 03:03, 19 September 2012 (UTC)
I have just added a reference to a recently published book ("What the Romans Knew") on the history of the relationship of ancient Roman law to the development of concept of physical or scientific law in the history section. I also concur with the above posters that the article as a whole is conceptually confused and confusing. One problem is that some of the editors fail to realize the metaphorical nature of the use of the word "law". Also a discussion of, or at least references to probability and determinism definitely belong here though I don't feel qualified to contribute them, myself. (talk) 15:48, 14 October 2012 (UTC)

Returning to the article after seven years, I see that it's not improved much. The reason for this isn't the proliferation of the similarly-titled articles or with their consistency or their overlap. It's the result of several minds trying to make sense of and justify the invocation of a cherished linguistic anachronism. These so-called "laws" are symbolic descriptions that describe more or less universally observed aspects of the interactions of physical entities. This is a profound thing: the ability to succinctly assert universal aspects of these interactions. Such descriptions don't require ecclesiastical headgear. The use of the word "law" is just a crappy, unsupportable bad habit.

It's not surprising that many, such as the frustrated-sounding JenniferOverington ("Summary ... landing page") would like it to be just a Table of Contents for a physics handbook or formula card. I think it probably should be that, really (and in fact Main article: List of laws in science comes pretty quick), but the lead should properly be a couple of sentences like "Physical Law is a colloquialism used in the sciences to refer to relations that are more or less regular between measurable physical phenomena...", blah, followed by "here are links to several of them," and be done with it - as I wrote years ago. The reason for not changing the pages is the same as it was in the earlier decade - it's all my opinion. It's a true opinion, but I haven't discovered a sufficiently impressive secondary source that has bothered to address the subject. Perhaps, one day... Rt3368 (talk) 07:32, 29 January 2014 (UTC)

A law of nature in itself.[edit]

There is a difference between the law of nature as the created unit and the application of that law. For example ‘water puts out fire’ manifests the law which informs of a predictable result following interaction between water and fire. It does not say however why water has this characteristic called a law of nature. Water consists of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. Neither of the two types of atoms puts out fire and each represents a different law of nature from that applicable to water. The two laws of nature, those represented by hydrogen and oxygen, interact and create a new law of nature applicable to water. The two types of atoms are also the result of interaction of the laws of nature applicable to their parts. Going back in the direction of smaller and smaller parts, each part a different law of nature, we reach the moment when only the motivation is left on its own with the law of ‘One’, meaning one invariable medium acting on itself. From this we can conclude that every unit, whether real or imaginary, is the sum of the laws of nature contained in the static unit in the observer’s ‘now’. Each unit in our reality is a different memory capable of being observed in the future. Thus; our reality consists of two elements, the static and eternal plurality of the laws of nature and the invariable motivation, also eternal. KK ( (talk) 16:40, 8 January 2013 (UTC))

Whew! That's a lot of laws. The "water puts out fire" one is pretty crummy, to boot. When it's violated, as it often is, who writes the citation? Does the violator have until eternity to pay the fine? Rt3368 (talk) 06:36, 29 January 2014 (UTC)

Terminological / teoretical / mathematical ) errors / confution[edit]

Hi. I am a user, and have no plan of editing articles in english. My english is not god enough. My lenguages are italian, spanish, and norwegian. But after readeng the article i had to say something. From the outside(article reader) it loks very untructured. The Talk page reveals some. I do not see the structure in the article. First one should expect definitions concerning the relationchip between hypotesis, theory, and Law. With their respective mathematical theory/axion confirming the law/teory that is addressed. This is not a matter of personal opinion. This is the way a law(either mathematical or fysical) is build up from just beieng a hypotesis. There is a lot to do with the article, if the aim is to make the reader understand the term Physical Law. There are several law's in physics. They ave all been thru the same process before been upgraded to laws. This process is also something one should expect from the article. Some of the contents is wrong, and some is non-sense.

The description section makes litle sense, and some of it (like Omnipotent) is not the atributes a physicist use. None of the current law's are omnypotent (this is wath Einsten spent his last yerars on). Their aim is to explain the universe (macro or sub atomic) without the need of reffering to any God (who is defined as omnypotent by cristians/Jews/muslims)

"Physical laws are distinguished from scientific theories"!!! All Physical laws's are proven scientific theories. Proven either theoreticaly (thrue math and/or known axioms)and/or empirical evidence (true observation/mesuarment/experiments).

Further we have examples section that comes before the theoretical explanation.

I have a lot of ebook's on the matter if ssomeone is interested.

MH Comodular (talk) 05:40, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

"Physical laws" can NOT be "proven scientific theories" because theories can not be proved by scientific inquiry or in any other way. Theorems of mathematics may be proven but theories are not theorems. The things that are the objects of science are our (imperfect) observations and our (imperfect) theories. What are commonly called "physical laws" are assertions, in words of regular language or in other symbols, that describe our observations of the ways in which physical entities universally, regularly effect each other or interact with each other. The further character of assertions commonly referred to as "physical laws" is that they may be stated succinctly. Rt3368 (talk) 06:28, 29 January 2014 (UTC)


The Examples section contains no examples. It claims that classical mechanics, relativity "contain" examples. It also notes several names of examples of "laws of nature". I suspect the reason there are no examples here is because the entire article is fundamentally flawed. There is no single meaning for the term "physical laws". It is used in incompatible ways. Is a "physical law" known or only approximated? Where is the link to the correspondance principle? Is it a structure of a theoretical (abstract) system or a structure of our reality? The lede makes the statement that a physical law is "expressible" by a statement. This is just plain wrong. I know of no physical laws which is expressible without both a well defined context and without (one or more) mathematical structures being imposed on defined variables of that context. The section Description contains 9 bullet points supposedly listing "several general properties" and completely fails to acknowledge that there is no consensus. It also, as others have noted, uses weasle words: "they appear to", "they are typically", "they are generally". I also hold the opinion that a physical law may NOT be "true" but rather be "approximate" (eg Boyle's Law IS a physical law). "All men die" - isn't that a physical law? My point is there are many different definitions of the term, ignoring them is foolish, as is attempting to combine them all into a single thing. Finally, the very first sentence starts:"A physical law or scientific law 'is a theoretical principle ..." and yet the term "laws of nature" is used repeatedly throughout, not to mention the fact that the reader is refered to Laws of science without explanation of the difference between Laws of Science, scientific laws, Laws of Physics, physical laws, and Laws of Nature. I personally find this article adds to the confusion about the subject rather than dispelling ignorance. (talk) 17:25, 5 September 2015 (UTC)

Isaac Newton and physical law[edit]

MjolnirPants has reverted in this edit and says, "The claimed wording does not appear in any source, as usual."

If you follow the first cited source here to New York Times and search for the word, "Newton", then you will find the following sentence:

This shared failing is no surprise, because the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way.

His had originally reverted the edit by saying, "more true to sources; Newton did not 'come up' with that idea ..."
So, as a compromise, I used the more exact wording of the source, "Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal ..."
It's perplexing that MjolnirPants claims, "The claimed wording does not appear in any source, as usual" when it clearly exists in the cited source.

Noyster is correct to fix the incorrect term, "naturalist", with the correct term, "natural philosopher". Newton was not a naturalist (those who believe in naturalism). Newton believed that God controls the universe, as he wrote in Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.

This most beautiful System of the Sun, Planets, and Comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being. ... This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all: And on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God Pantokrator, or Universal Ruler.

Moreover, the vast majority of scientists during scientific revolution were Christians, who just like Newton, believed that it was God who is in control of the universe. (talk) 17:59, 3 November 2016 (UTC)

You claimed that you were using the source's "exact words" which is patently untrue. The quotes you provided above are not the wording you used in the article. Even if it were, it would need to be presented as a quote with attribution. Instead of searching them for "Newton", I actually took the time to read them and to write the passage the way WP policy states: to summarize the entire statements of the source on the subject, not to cherry pick two-and-three word phrases in order to present a different meaning, then tack on an unsupported claim to the end of it. Futhermore, the definition of "naturalist" you provided is not the primary definition of the word (it refers to a scholar of natural history according to a large number of dictionaries), and the word was frequently used as a synonym for "natural philosopher" during Newton's life. Hence my use of it. I'm perfectly fine with Noyster's change.
Finally, your entire last paragraph illustrates the exact reason why the specific religion in question doesn't need to be explicated: there were no other religions a 17th century Englishman would have conceivably adhered to. He sure as hell wasn't going to be a Zen Buddhist. Plus, there are major problems with replacing "religious" with "biblical" as illustrated by my most recent edit summary: the bible does not actually espouse the view that God created a world with perfect, immutable and unchanging laws. So it is a Christian theological view, not a biblical one. While I still think it's undue to continue to try to push your POV onto every article you touch, I suppose I wouldn't mind too much if you replaced "religious" with "Christian".
You are aware that an Administrator has begun a discussion of how to treat your POV pushing behavior, right? You've been notified of it on your talk page. So far, every participant is in agreement that you're hurting this project, and should be subject to sanctions to minimize the damage. I'm only bringing this up here because you've never responded to any messages left at your talk page. WP:ANI#Tendentious IP. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 01:59, 4 November 2016 (UTC)
I've already explained regarding the exact wording. I am willing to accept it as a case of a simple misunderstanding.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states:

"The great majority of contemporary philosophers would happily accept naturalism as just characterized—that is, they would both reject “supernatural” entities, ..."

Thus, most people who read the word "naturalist" would incorrectly assume that Newton rejected "supernatural" entities, God. Let's just say this was a simple misunderstanding also.
I appreciate your willingness to compromise. I will update the word with "Christian". (talk) 03:30, 4 November 2016 (UTC)
Accept it however you like, just don't try to quote mine to support POV pushing. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 04:00, 4 November 2016 (UTC)

"Christian" vs "religious"[edit]

There's some disagreement on which is the better term. For the record, I believe that "religious" is the better term, because there's no ambiguity (Isaac Newton sure wasn't a Neopagan or a Sikh, for example), but it's not clear that Isaac Newton would have considered himself a traditional Christian. After all, The Trinity is a Christian doctrine that Newton explicitly rejected. I offered to let the other IP change it as a form of compromise, and I still believe that "Christian" is good enough, but "religious" is better by far. MjolnirPants Tell me all about it. 14:28, 10 November 2016 (UTC)