The Physical Worldornament
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The Restless universe
Introduction to The restless Universe

1 The lawful Universe

2 The clockwork Universe

3 The irreversible Universe

4 The intangible Universe

5 The uncertain Universe

6 Closing items


Other titles in the Physical World series

Describing motion

Predicting motion

Classical physics of matter

Static fields and potentials

Dynamic fields and waves

Quantum physics: an introduction

Quantum physics of matter

Answer and comments

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Question 1.1
When Jesuits first visited China they spoke about the 'laws of science'. The Chinese thought this was a ridiculous notion: people could be persuaded to obey the laws of the Emperor, but sticks and stones have no intelligence so it is absurd to think of them as 'obeying laws'. How would you respond to this?

The Chinese were perhaps right, but their complaint is more about language than substance. When we talk about a system obeying a scientific law, we do not mean that the system has understood the law and is consciously following it. We just mean that the behaviour of the system follows a pattern that is predictable, and that someone has discovered and announced this pattern as a scientific law.

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