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Name: Sam
Status: other
Grade: 9-12
Country: Canada
Date: N/A 

Is there any way that the first law of thermodynamics can be broken? If it cannot, then does that mean energy/matter existed before the universe (perhaps even the multiverse)?


Regarding your first question, the purpose of science is to constantly learn more about the universe -- researchers are constantly trying to run experiments that might change our understanding of matter and energy. Scientists are constantly trying to find new situations where previous understanding is either inadequate or does not apply. A great example is traditional Newtonian physics versus quantum effects. On "macroscopic" scales, Newtonian physics is valid. But at very small size scales, the laws no longer work. Quantum physics describes behaviors we observe at very small size scales that Newtonian physics could not describe. By the same token, regarding your question, of course it is possible that a new discovery could change how we describe energy and matter (or how understand the first law of thermodynamics). It would be an impressive accomplishment to discover a way around the first law indeed!

Addressing your specific question, if you mean "has anyone ever created matter or energy out of _nothing_", well, no, that has not happened, and there is no evidence or theory to show how it would be possible to do so.

Regarding your second question, the first law describes to how the universe works. You mention "before the universe" -- if there is no universe, then any laws that describe how the universe works would not apply. It would be like trying to use US laws in Canada -- US laws do nott apply in Canada, just like the laws of physics do not apply outside the Universe (or if there is no universe).

As a side note, it is a good idea to remember that the universe is not just a container for everything, it *is* everything -- matter and energy are part of the universe, and so if matter and energy exist, then so must the universe.

Hope this helps,
Burr Zimmerman

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