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Distant Galaxies And Natural Laws

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Posted by Luciano Medina/">Luciano Medina on September 10, 1998 16:24:56 UTC

: On the other hand, the earth is a tiny little feature of the entire universe. Man has only explored about a gazillionth of the universe, so we are not qualified to dismiss any notions about what could lie at distant galaxies.

I didn't want to let it pass by because I heard it many times, if not always I talk with someone about extraterrestrial life. I have the feeling that many people use this argument thinking that natural laws we find on Earth or in the Solar System don't work anymore for distant galaxies. Not at all. Even when they are incomplete, even when we are constantly correcting and making them more accurate, the theories of gravitation, quantum mechanics, relativity, etc., are meant to explain natural laws for ALL the Universe, not just a small portion of it. Extremely long distances don't affect the E=mc2 equation, it is supposed to work everywhere. If, by any chance, we observe something in the universe that contradicts any of this theories, we have to discard it and find a new one that includes the new phenomena (that's how Einstein started, when it was discovered that light from a distant start was deflected by the sun's gravitation force). But so far (and according to what I know, though I may be missing something), the observation of the furthest galaxies through the most powerful telescopes, everything seems to be "right": their shape can be explained by gravitation laws, their color by "Doppler effect", their frequence spectrum by proportions of chemical elements that seem to be uniform everywhere... And this is not because scientists are "conservative" and force the observations to match the known theories, as many people thinks. If an astronomer discovers something that probes one of the actual theories is wrong, he will be very famous, so they all want to find an "unexplainable" thing.

I agree that we have explored a tiny part of the Universe, and surely we have lots of things to discover and maybe many new theories will come. But the actual ones seem very precise, and every new improvement doesn't seem to change substantially the way we see the Universe. The last big revolution came with the relativity of Einstein, and even this one can only be observed at very high speed or with very large masses. If we are concerned about the origin of life in a planet, we may still use Newton's phisics and last century's chemistry.

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