First Law of Thermodynamics and Big Bang
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,
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Update: June 2012