The universe may be “self-taught,” according to a study by Microsoft researchers and Brown University scientists. This means that he would be learning about himself and shaping the laws of physics as he evolves.
The research argues that the physical laws of the cosmos may be slowly changing. In other words, the universe’s self-learning process would be something continuous, which still occurs, and not something that happened only in the past. This would complicate scientists’ quest to understand how the universe works.
According to classical theory, matter began to form after the hot Big Bang, in a process known as “hadronization”. The universe was composed of the initial plasma — the “quark-gluon plasma” — with many free and highly energetic fundamental particles that quickly began to be confined into composite particles.
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Evolution of the self-taught universe
This started an irreversible process of formation of particles like protons and neutrons, with the help of some rules of physics that we know today, including the action of the strong force. Much later, when hydrogen atoms dominated the universe, they began to form the first clouds of gas and gravity created the first stars and galaxies.
That’s what scientists know from knowing the laws of physics, but what if the universe had to learn, relearn, and change its own laws as it evolved? This is the proposal of the new article, published in pre-print on arXiV (that is, the work has not yet been peer-reviewed).
In this line of reasoning, the universe does not follow a sequence of predictable and invariable reactions, as we would expect if the laws of physics today were the same as they were 13.7 billion years ago. If we want to understand the evolution of the cosmos, we must apply Darwinian natural selection to cosmology, according to the team.
As the universe sought stability, the simpler laws of physics on which it was originally based evolved to become much more sophisticated. This is an interesting idea, because some fundamental forces of nature became independent before others.
In fact, scientists define the Plank era, one of the first moments after the Big Bang, as a time when the four fundamental forces were unified. The first that became independent was gravity, and then the strong force. Then there was a force called electroweak, which later split into the electromagnetic and weak forces.
It may be that these processes developed in the universe as self-learning took place. This means that the laws of physics can change again if need be—that need is the cosmos’s quest for stability. If it takes new physics to become stable, the universe will make it happen.
According to the hypothesis, the initial system of the universe will learn on its own and some fundamental laws arise, not the other way around. It is not because the fundamental laws are true from the beginning that the universe evolved into the form we see. Rather than a defined and deterministic system, the cosmos would be more akin to the self-learning of artificial intelligences, which teach themselves new “rules”.
On the other hand, this also implies that the universe was from the beginning subject to laws that we cannot yet understand – a cosmic Darwinian law, where perhaps some laws of physics competed with others, and “survived” those that brought more stability to the system.
This would not invalidate what scientists know about the evolution of the universe, as science only proposes to explain the things that already happened, and how they happened. But the self-learning hypothesis is, to say the least, interesting. The authors admit that they are trying to take the first steps toward forming a new theory, but it can grow over time and provide fascinating new insights.