UQ researchers break the law -- of physics

July 6, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Two UQ Science researchers have proved two famous physical laws that have been widely used for the past 25 years do not always work.

Dr Tony Roberts and PhD student Christophe P. Haynes, from the School of Maths and Physics, showed the fractal-Einstein and Alexander-Orbach laws can fail in some instances, and have derived a new law to replace them.

Dr Roberts said this new discovery had implications for predicting material properties; how disease spreads through society; mapping how wild animals forage for food; and improving the internet.

“We demonstrated unequivocally that two 'exact' foundational laws of fractal science, which have been cited over 2000 times in the scientific literature, can fail for a class of fractals,” he said.

“These are the first definitive counter examples to these laws.

“Given that our key equation solves a number of old and new problems, we believe we have discovered a 'missing' equation from fractal physics that will have important implications.”

Dr Roberts said the laws in question were used to describe how diffuse in complex environments, which lies at the heart of range of big scientific questions.

“Imagine you have an animal that can search for food in one of two valleys, one narrow, with many side branches, and the other wide, with only a few side tracks,” he said.

“Under the old laws, the of the animal locating food in either valley was equal, regardless of which was easier. Intuitively we can see that this just isn't the case.

“But our new law takes into account the differences in the valleys, predicting the time it takes for the animal to find food is significantly longer in the difficult valley.”

Dr Roberts said particles in diffuse in complex environments in much the same way, choosing the easiest path, and so their spread was not uniform, as the old laws predicted.

He said the discovery came from a bit of good fortune and a lot of hard work.

“It's quite rare to turn over widely accepted laws like this, and, as often occurs in science, it came out of curiosity driven research," he said.

"The history of it was that my PhD student had been working on the theory of some networks when he came to me in October last year with calculations which didn't obey this law.

“Around November we confirmed all our results and discovered that we had indeed violated this law, so our mindset changed from checking our work to essentially saying, what's going on here? There must be something new going on here.”

Dr Roberts and Mr Haynes then went back through the 25-year-old derivations of the laws to examine their underlying assumptions.

“We were tearing our hair out because we were staring into the unknown, we were considering behaviour that people hadn't conceived of before,” he said.

“So it took 7 or 8 months to work it into a new law and get it published but it's done.

“It's a really lovely story, I mean I've been doing science for 20 years and I've never been associated with anything like this.”

Dr Roberts said although the new law has direct implications for the properties of materials with fractal structure, the laws of physical networks may help in providing a more accurate mathematical model of the spread of disease.

“Current laws would essentially show that for two places that were equidistant (from Brisbane), so that would be I guess Mackay and Sydney, that the transmission rates would be the same,” he said.

“But our work shows that it's possible for the disease to spread more in particular directions where there are a greater number of connections.

“While you would expect you would get greater disease transfer where there were greater connections, the current laws don't actually show that - ours does.”

More information: The research, titled Generalisation of the fractal relating conduction and diffusion on networks, will be published in the July 17 issue of Physical Review Letters.

Provided by University of Queensland (news : web)

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1.5 / 5 (15) Jul 06, 2009
To sum up this article:

Some guys discover some stuff.
4.1 / 5 (12) Jul 06, 2009
To sum up this article:

Some guys discover some stuff.

I dont think you are being either fair or even nice! His discovery certainly did seem to have been missed by yoU. Science advances in a myriad of small discoveries punctuated by occasions of larger steps. Were you the one paying $1000 per minute for computer time only to find that your work resulted in inaccurate results I'm sure you'd be upset. Thanks to the work described here, others might find fewer disatisfactions.

Your silly 'contribution' is really quite 'anti-science', I might add... so much so that I doubt you've much scientific background at all! If you do, correct me, please, and tell us just where you did obtain such a myopic view of science!

2 / 5 (21) Jul 06, 2009
It's Considerably more important than that. What it show is critical for all students of science to know.

That is: that there are NO laws of any kind. Laws in science were put in place for engineers to use when constructing devices that were directed to them by scientists.

nothing more.

Other than that, science changes all the time. Only a fool,a complete nimrod -would ever believe that there are any laws in science..

For example, the 'law' of thermodynamics is 1,000,000% wrong. If it was right, the human body would not function..and..most specifically.... if energy was equalized as it is in equations, to sum out as it were..then no motor would work and the universe would not work and time would not exist, and neither would nuclear decay.Maxwell's original full equations of 20 equatiosn in 20 unknowns show a slight uni-directionality but Heaviside and Lorentz summed it out..and the baby was thrown out with the bathwater. They did this to help engineers design electric motors when the ability to utilize (work with, mathematically in the real world- to easily calculate) the full equations was simply not there and would not be for nearly 100 years.

This is starting to be shown to be the truth.

1000's of examples of laws being wrong and violated exist out there.

So don't believe in laws in science, EVER. they are there to keep you in line as an engineer..but if you are a scientist..then laws are a fools game and will limit discovery to playing with children's blocks.
5 / 5 (14) Jul 06, 2009
" So don't believe in laws in science, EVER. they are there to keep you in line as an engineer..but if you are a scientist..then laws are a fools game and will limit discovery to playing with children's blocks. "

Cool your heels, buddy. We all know this! However, in the realms of the vernacular of the english language, the word 'law' has a special meaning to scientists, just as the word 'theory' does! Save your insulting impertinent remarks for High School Physics 101.
1 / 5 (7) Jul 06, 2009
1 / 5 (6) Jul 06, 2009
Wonderful that the ultimately logical and totally obvious has now been mathematically modelled... Indeed there are no "laws," there are only universal tendencies - the view of absolute laws is static and retardative and tends to lock research and new discovery to paradigm. It's useful to study Bergson and Godel in this respect.
5 / 5 (3) Jul 06, 2009
So don't believe in laws in science, EVER. they are there to keep you in line as an engineer..but if you are a scientist..then laws are a fools game and will limit discovery to playing with children's blocks.

What was broken wasn't a physical Law. At the most it was a theory. There are few Laws in physics since very few theories are simple enough to be proven universally true.
5 / 5 (4) Jul 06, 2009
Bravo, Dr Tony Roberts and PhD student Christophe P. Haynes! Excellent work!
3.3 / 5 (4) Jul 06, 2009
Rules and Laws are to be broken. What we know now leads us to think we know something hard and fast. Yet that has been proven to be a falsehood many times. Keep plowing ahead because that is where the hurdles are. No sense going backwards, you have already been there.
3.9 / 5 (8) Jul 06, 2009
So... which valley am I supposed to look for food in?
5 / 5 (2) Jul 07, 2009
As my old Maths Prof used to say "Statistics is bollocks".
1 / 5 (2) Jul 07, 2009
Lets institute a science police for all this scientists who are breaking the laws. The punishments should be severe including but not limited to public humiliation.
To Sean_W : Do not look for food in your fridge!
1 / 5 (2) Jul 07, 2009
For Einstein the data entered ALWAYS determined the result DEPENDING on the manner of insertion! The "wannabe's" should follow his rule!
5 / 5 (4) Jul 08, 2009
I don't understand enough about the field to appreciate the importance of this discovery. My only complaint is it would've been better for the article to create a bit more context and/or more concrete of an example - that way a more diverse audience, such as most of us here at physorg, would get illuminated and inspired.
1 / 5 (2) Jul 11, 2009
So, the next guy who says, "The pen is mightier than the sword!" should be executed. Unless he can actually prove that a pen is better at killing people than a pen?


There is a Direct TV commercial where a guy says, "75% of all statistics are made up on the spot."
2 / 5 (4) Jul 11, 2009
These guys have found, that diffusion in complex environment doesn't fit the diffusion in homogeneous environment, for which Einstein law was derived originally.

OK, nice - but I really don't think, that they revealed a new physical law - it's just another example of fabricating of artificial sensations.
1 / 5 (2) Jul 11, 2009
"Statistics is bollocks".
There are lies, damned lies, then statistics.
1 / 5 (2) Jul 11, 2009
Nice to see Queenslanders doing stuff besides bending bananas. (-:
4 / 5 (2) Jul 12, 2009
Why do some of you believe that the Laws of Physics do not exist? Because a law can be corrected does not negate the existence of laws. The laws of Newton are still valid to within an approximation, the results they provide when solving certain problems are not any less true because more correct laws have been established. You just have to apply them correctly.

Responding to KBK - I think that you have it backwards, the human body would not function if the Laws of Thermodynamics were not true. For if entropy were to be violated and heat transferred from colder bodies to warmer bodies then there would not exist a natural way to sustain an equilibrium temperature. Heat would continue to transfer, the body would become hotter and hotter. Thermodynamics tells us that heat transfers from hot bodies to cold bodies, which makes perfect sense because then an equilibrium temperature can actually be sustained: heat will stop transferring to the body when it comes to the same temperature as it's environment. I am curious as to how you came to your conclusion.
1.3 / 5 (3) Jul 13, 2009
It would be more interesting if either the writer of the item, or one of the many contributing to the comments, could explain a little about the Fractal Science that has incurred such a dramatic revision as the result of the work at the University of Queensland. There is a picture with the article which does not explain anything by itself, and yet is one of the very few on PhysOrg that arrives without a caption.

It is only possible to assume that nobody (contributing here) really understands what has been accomplished or, if they do, then they prefer not to share that knowledge to a group of ill-mannered critics. That is a shame for them, and a shame for us, the readers. Even if we do not understand the subject sufficiently to appreciate its consequences on existing and future science processes, this lack of information sharing (the ultimate reason for the Web and this site in particular) denies us any opportunity to learn.

Returning to this article in particular, it seems that there are three points worthy of further reading/exploration. First, the vocabulary of modern science leaves it open to much criticism when it applies the word 'law' to phenomenon that has been observed, measured, tested and demonstrated repeatedly to behave in a uniform and predictable manner to the point that any exceptions are labelled errors or failures. Since the first days of science, the 'laws' that have previously been established is definitive, immutable paradigms have later been found to cover the majority of cases where the 'law' applies - but not all. Is 'law' an appropriate word for science?

Secondly, Fractal Science, based on Fractal Equations, is based upon computer systems that process (resolve) the mathematic equations to a limited (digital, numerically rounded/truncated) accuracy that can only be improved by the use of more advanced computing systems. Has the UQ 'breakthrough' been the result of re-examining the existing equations in a more advanced computing system, capable of analysing incidents (errors) that were previously written off as inconsequential or simple computation malfunctions?

How much 'error correction' exists in the computing models used to uphold existing 'laws' of science? Are errors/exceptions caught and reported in the results of computer simulations, or are they still being 'internally managed' by the code/program running the simulation?

Thirdly and finally, science as a paradigm (of itself) that remains consistent only temporarily, that is (apparently) required to change its ideas, theories, beliefs, facts and 'laws' and therefore the understanding of everyone following in its wake and everyone else effected by the consequences of those changes. Science is a belief system, built upon evidence that has been analysed and obtained a consensus of agreement, but none the less still only the belief of a group of people. Every step science takes towards its ultimate goal - the truth - is a step in the dark, propelled by the belief that something important exists there and must be brought out into the light. However, it is the weaknesses of the people involved in the scientific process, (being as human, proud, insecure, arrogant and cowardly as those making comments here on PhysOrg and other public forums), that leads to new discoveries being acclaimed as 'breakthroughs', 'paradigm shifts' and 'giant steps forward' before complete examination is finalised.

Such is, (it appears), the case of Fractal Equations and the branch of 'errors' that permit a more accurate prediction of 'reality' ... according to the latest computing simulations and consensus of 'moderately excited' analysts ... that should have been discovered before, when Fractal Science was first published. When the light was shone on this darkness, not all the darkness was eliminated (or illuminated) and, thus, this revision which invokes awe, respect, reverence and (perhaps most importantly) doubt, is, unfortunately, necessary.

As rational as science promotes itself, it is not always applied so. The pressure to publish before someone else does; the need to gain the financing by getting to the investors first; the prestige (and financial benefit) of winning awards for your discoveries in the 'honeymoon' period before somebody else overturns them; and the enigmatic possibility of becoming a 'hero', a 'saint', or even a 'god' whose words are recorded in the annuls of science for many years into the future, long after death - and that of the majority of your original work.

Is it any wonder that people on the periphery (from enthusiastic readers and interpreters, to corporations and venture capitalists) loose faith in the belief of science when it appears impossible to believe anything (even a law or a paradigm) when everything is subject to revision after (seemingly) anybody challenges it?

Could scientific publications dare to present the errors and exceptions discovered and (for the purposes of concentrating on the primary result) were not further examined during any scientific discovery process, thus leaving the doors widely open for more research - and less criticism?

Should the only law in science be: The only constant is change?
1 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2009
Correct me if I'm wrong, the laws of physics most certainly DO exist - the problem here is the process by which natural laws are brought to the level of interpretation.

Feynman seems to have been completely correct when he suggested that physics is essentially an analytic science. To take an example by way of analogy with mathematics, in his Elements, Euclid begins with 9 axioms as self-evident (meaning analytic) and then proceeds to a synthetic demonstration of the rest of his geometry. Were he smart enough (in other words - not human), he would have been able to recognize EVERY single theorem as self-evident and hence as entirely axiomatic. Fortunately, mathematics doesn't require PHYSICAL evidence for rational confirmation - so this method works quite fine.

In physics, however, things are different. We now have laws which are shown to be true directly via way of hypothesis and experimentation, and in a very real sense they become axiomatic, or more preferably, analytic. The problem is that we just don't know ALL of the laws of physics, so we need to attempt to 'synthesize' the rest, quite like Euclid, but yet without the certainty of the mathematician.

So the problem is really the synthesis of these laws in the interpretation of theories, not their experimental validation.

Finally, regarding the point about the laws of Thermodynamics as unsustainable - why not look at an easier example? I'm sitting in a very hot country right now (Greece) and was recently reading about old air conditioning systems, wishing that I myself had one in my apartment. Anyhow, the Romans used a very simple AC system in terms of water pumping from aqueducts into crevices built into the walls of wealthy homes. The room naturally cooled as a result of entropy and heat transfer. There doesn't seem to be too much complicated here...
1 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2009
Diotrephes, that which is axiomatic is, by definition, not analytic. To be axiomatic, a proposition must be self-evidently true. From Set Theory, for example, there is the Axiom of Existence, which claims, quite simply, that there exists at least one set. Now, an analytic proposition is something I know not what. For analysis is an operation on a concept--that is, a concept or concepts that are contained within another. For example, the concept of dog contains within it the concept of mammal, quadraped, and so on; these concepts follow readily from the concept of dog. Now, observations that that reveal proposition, such as, "All dogs are mammals," are analytic judgments. As analysis is an operation on a concept, it cannot be axiomatic.

No, all science is synthetical, though anaylsis does take place as part of the overal endeavor.
3 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2009
For example, the 'law' of thermodynamics is 1,000,000% wrong. If it was right, the human body would not function

Well here's someone with a total lack of understanding of the difference between closed and open physical systems.

2 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2009
Laws of physics do exist, but ironically we do not know them. All we have are models or interpretations. The laws of the universe are simply the probabilities of behaviors of matter & energy, or as Aristotle used to say, of First Matter which refers to the building block of everything.

I find this discovery quite silly in the nature of its obviousness. Many who read the article probably thought to themselves, how can something so obvious something most people without much knowledge could propose, how could that be missed considering the formulas we're used for 25 years, yet nobody critiqued it. I find the tardness of this discovery obsurd, and how scientist did not think of the items mentioned in the article when performing studies is beyond me as if they are narrow-minded. The items they discovered are so self-evident, I just cannot believe...

3 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2009

Laws of physics do exist and we know some of them. Laws are patterns, and patterns exist. Law of gravity, pattern: you drop a rock on earth and it will fall to the ground. There is no denying that pattern exists. What we have are patterns of the constructs of the universe. We don't have patterns of the building blocks of the universe, we don't even know what that is. Regardless, the interactivity of these constructs (or particles) create detectable patterns; what we call the laws of physics. The mistake is made when we assume that any of these laws are omnipotent. As far as I know, no pattern or law, has been proved to be above all other patterns or laws. All patterns have there limits; circumstances where they do not exist. There are potentially infinite amounts of patterns, so realistically we only know a tiny fraction.

I find this discovery quite silly in the nature of its obviousness. Many who read the article probably thought to themselves, how can something so obvious something most people without much knowledge could propose, how could that be missed considering the formulas we're used for 25 years, yet nobody critiqued it. I find the tardiness of this discovery absurd, and how scientist did not think of the items mentioned in the article when performing studies is beyond me as if they are narrow-minded. The items they discovered are so self-evident, I just cannot believe...

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