Now that we have touched on many of the fundamental laws of the universe, we might well ask, “What makes a law of nature ‘fundamental’?” If a law applies everywhere in the universe, and is something that is part of the essential truth of how our universe works, then it is a fundamental law of nature. Such laws are a part of the very fabric of the universe and are eternal and unchanging. We have encountered some of the most important ones in this book.
Although science can seem so overwhelmingly vast and complicated, it is useful to realize that there are not that many really fundamental laws of the universe that we are aware of, and much of the complexity we observe lies in the details. It is kind of like all the millions of different buildings, bridges, and architectural structures out there, but they are all mainly built of bricks, cement, steel, and glass—the fundamental elements are few and simple.
It is much the same way with our lives and the human experience. Our individual stories, personalities, and paths through life can be infinitely diverse, but permeating all of them there are a set of simple rules and patterns that define all of our lives. That’s why we can instantly relate to tales of people separated from us by seemingly vast chasms of time and space and circumstances. Great literature, art, and music tap into those common and universal themes.
Most of us are instinctively aware of the existence of fundamental laws—those that define the material universe that we physically inhabit and those that define our conscious existence. This book shows that the two sets of laws have much in common, contrary to what we generally believe. But really, that should not be so surprising, because despite our natural preoccupation only with events and people that directly affect us, we are very much a part of the physical universe.
In the pages of this book, we covered the whole spectrum of issues relevant in life—relationships, sex, shared quirks of human nature, our need for company and privacy, our desire for fame, global flow of people and culture, how we manage our finances, how we perceive others, the sources of our common frustrations, finding success and the reasons we fail, how our sense of optimism and sense of time can evolve, what defines happiness, and so on. In the same span, we have also covered a broad range of the most important established laws of the universe. At every step, we find parallels—even when the physical laws may not directly apply to life, there are always counterparts in life that follow the same pattern. That fact is indeed nontrivial and profound, because it certainly did not have to be that way; the rules of life could have been quite the opposite of the physical laws. But they are not. The rules of life generally follow their physical counterparts. The implication is much more than a validation of the premise of this book—it tells us that at a deeper level, underneath all the subjectivity and bewildering craziness of life, we can always find bedrock of objective and concrete rules to guide us, if we only look for them in the right place.
Viewing what we typically consider quintessentially human behavior and concerns from the perspective of fundamental laws of nature therefore has the unique advantage of providing a certain objectivity that is hard to find amidst the unpredictable and often irrational course of life. Since this objectivity derives directly from the unchanging laws of physics, we can feel secure in the conclusions we draw from it and the worldview we build upon it. That can be particularly valuable in distilling out the truth from the barrage of conflicting ideas and opinions that we constantly face in our interactions with people and the media. So, in the most literal sense, this is a guide to life, one that comes from the source of all our knowledge and wisdom: nature.
Indeed, it is true that from the earliest history of human knowledge, our primary source of wisdom has always been nature—even our essential spirituality ultimately derives from questions about our place in this universe. So what we have done here is simply delve into our updated knowledge base of nature and the universe to distill bits of meaningful wisdom to apply to our lives. It is an ancient process but built upon modern knowledge.