Harder to change laws of nature than nation

Charles Kramer, The Levison Group

The unexpected death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has lead to immediate speculation, from murder conspiracies to mundane concerns over who will take over his chair. Republican conservatives are concerned that if President Obama is allowed to fill the vacancy before leaving office, the balance of influence on the court will change. Most view the court as having a 5-4 split in favor of conservative thought, with Scalia having been on the Conservative side. Replacing him with a liberal could thus have far reaching impact. Similarly, most think the current incarnation of the High Bench does not favor judicial activism. Some see the empty chair as an opportunity to appoint assertive justice and change all that. It has been rare for this court to try to change law or create law to fill a Congressional void. Lawyers who favor a "living Constitution" and an advocative judiciary often base their perceived need for such an approach on the slow pace of legislative change. Absent the willingness of the courts to evolve our principles to match those of the current era, they argue, we will be stuck with outmoded laws that are unable to keep pace with modern thought. However, if people think it takes a long time for the laws of our nation to evolve, they should thank their lucky stars they aren't concerned with the laws of science. Compared to legislators and lawyers, the length of time it takes the science community to recognize a law of science is extraordinarily long - and it takes even longer for scentists to admit that any inviolate principles are actually in error and to change the "laws of nature."

For example, Eintstein's theory of relativity is still considered merely a theory, and not a law or principle. The theory has been around for decades, but it was only early this month that astrophysicists actually observed and recorded the supporting phenomenon that Einstein had postulated way back when (the existence of gravity waves and colliding black holes).

This discovery brought Einstein's theory one step closer to being deemed a law. To those of us who are not pure science enthusiasts, however, the most intriguing part of the discovery is not that the gravity waves theorized by Einstein were located, but rather that the Einsteinian theory those waves support is also the theoretical basis for time travel.

Einstein's general relativity was an attempt to explain gravity and how things move through space and describes gravity as the product of mass manipulating the fabric of space-time. It postulates the existence of gravitational waves, but during Einstein's time science was unable to actually observe such phenomenon. The recent breakthrough observations change that, and actually show that the theorized gravitational waves exist, that black holes exist, and that when two black holes smashed into each other 1.3 billion years ago, their crash sent ripples of gravity waves across the universe. It also tends to prove that as two super dense mass objects come near each other, space bends back upon itself - one of the centerpieces of most time travel theories.

Of course one of the longest held laws of nature was that our solar system has nine planets. Scientists began to believe this might not actually be accurate in the 1970s, however, but it was only decades later that the "law" was changed when Pluto got unceremoniously demoted and booted from the Planet brotherhood. However, then, a scant two weeks before our friendly gravity waves were observed, scientists discovered another phenomenon - a body nearly the size of Neptune - but as yet unseen - orbiting the sun every 15,000 years. That body, most now claim, is the new ninth planet.

Whether or not the laws of science are changed to reflect nine planets instead of eight, or whether the theory of relativity becomes the law of relativity, one thing is clear. Unlike here on earth, the decision won't depend on who is appointed to some high court of the universe in the next few months.

Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column of the Levison Group. Charles Kramer is a principal of the St. Louis, Missouri law firm Riezman Berger PC. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent to the Levison Group c/o this newspaper or to the Levison Group at comments@levisongroup.com.

© 2015 Under Analysis L.L.C.

Published: Fri, Feb 26, 2016