Where do the laws of physics come from?

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Victor J. Stenger
preprint description
The laws of physics were not handed down from above. Neither are they rules somehow built into the structure of the universe. They are ingredients of the models that physicists invent to describe observations. Rather than being restrictions on the behavior of matter, the laws of physics are restrictions on the behavior of physicists. If the models of physics are to describe observations based on an objective reality, then those models cannot depend on the point of view of the observer. This suggests a principle of point-of-view invariance that is equivalent to the principle of covariance when applied to space-time. As Noether showed, space-time symmetries lead to the principles of energy, linear momentum, and angular momentum conservation--essentially all of classical mechanics. It also leads to Lorentz invariance and special relativity. When generalized to the abstract space of functions such as the quantum state vector, point-of-view invariance is identified with gauge invariance. Quantum mechanics is then just the mathematics of gauge transformations with no additional assumptions needed to obtain its rules, including the superposition and uncertainty principles. The conservation and quantization of electric charge follow from global gauge invariance. The electromagnetic force is introduced to preserve local gauge invariance. Although not discussed here, the other forces in the standard model of elementary particles are also fields introduced to preserve local gauge invariance. Gravity can also be viewed as such a field. Thus practically all of fundamental physics as we know it follows directly from the single principle of point-of-view invariance.

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