Anyone who had Science as a subject in high school must have heard about the term “Law of conservation of Energy.” Basically, it tells you that energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be transferred from one form to another.
The definition fits so well into our daily lives when you observe things through the same lens. Let us consider your gasoline car, for example.
The chemical energy of the gasoline is converted to thermal energy upon combustion, which is then converted to mechanical energy.
Take the case of the rock falling from a height, potential energy to kinetic energy.
And the same definition applies to mass too, as mass can neither be creating nor destroyed, It can only be converted from one form to another. This law is known as the Law of conservation of Mass.
Einstein coined these two laws and gave us the famous Law of Conservation of Mass-Energy, where the iconic equation was put together - E = mc2 (Energy Mass Equivalence).
But can we say for sure that the Law of Conservation of Energy is absolute? What if energy can be created?
With certain arguments on the rise, let’s review the most popular arguments against the law of the conservation of energy.
The universe is expanding, very fast!
If energy cannot be created, then what fuels the expansion of the universe? The universe expands at a very fast rate, and researchers have put an approximate value of 68 kilometers per second per megaparsec.
In translation, the universe expands faster than the speed of light.
And the mind-bending aspect about this expansion is that it is accelerating. So with each second, the universe expands faster than the second before!
The researchers call the energy behind this expansion “Dark Energy.” But where does this dark energy come from? Was it already there?
Several researchers have argued that an expanding universe is feeding of the potential gravitational energy within it. As the universe expands, galaxies get farther and farther away.
This reduces the gravitational energy between them. This gravitational energy is used by the universe for expansion.
Also, as the universe expands, it gets colder and colder. The new stars are not as hot as their predecessors and we are seeing this trend all across Space.
So yes, when we look at the universe as a closed system, it does obey the law of conservation of energy.
Quantum Physics and Law of Conservation of Energy
Einstein and Quantum Physics had a very rough relationship as many of the physics principles that we know to work in the real world don’t behave the same way in the quantum world.
As the electrons get excited, they are able to jump to higher levels. Niels Bohr, Hans Kramers, and John Slater proposed that these electrons violated the law of conservation of Energy momentarily.
They stated that with each jump, energy is either created or destroyed by the electrons during the whole process. However, this was again ruled out to be not the case, as the electron’s total energy before or after the excitation remained the same.
In essence, the law of conservation of energy was not broken in any way in the process.
The Cosmological Constant – Is this the one?
The third topic is not like the two that we discussed above. In previous cases, the conservation of energy was thought to be inapplicable, but it was proved wrong.
However, when we discuss the cosmological constant, things are in the dark!
We discussed how the universe is under accelerated expansion and how dark energy is thought to be the fuel for the expansion.
However, do we know what Dark Energy is, and how it came to existence?
Well, the scientists went about finding the magnitude of this dark energy using two ways. The first method was by calculating it through equations, and the second method involved measuring it directly.
And when the two values were brought for evaluation, it shocked everyone. The value that can be calculated through physics equations were 120 orders of magnitude larger than the value that was measured.
This is not a negligible difference and was described as the “worst theoretical prediction in the history of physics." The measured value was called the Cosmological Constant.
However, the actual value of the cosmological constant is debated because of the subtle differences in the actual numbers due to the method of measurement used.
So, this massive discrepancy got the scientists thinking about the cause of this difference. And the result that they have drawn is that somewhere, millions or billions of years ago, the law of conservation of energy was violated.
This is a very risky remark to make because of the soundness of the Law of Conservation of Energy.
The researchers believe that during a point in history, the energy was either created or destroyed without obeying the conservation of energy. This might be the reason why such a shift in the value was observed with the two calculation methods.
However, we cannot prove the theory as the data needed for making such a statement is largely unknown.
So is the Law of Conservation of Energy a Hoax?
Up until now, every single argument against the Law of Conservation of Energy was made to be false under research. The latest conundrum that is causing headaches to the researchers is Dark Energy.
And, we cannot disprove or prove that the law of Conservation was compromised. We simply don’t have enough data to validate such a claim.
So for now, the Law of Conservation of Energy still stands unrefuted, and with each claim losing its value as we dig deeper, the Law of Conservation of Energy sure has defeated countless claims against it.