Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Is it impossible for a universe that only contains particles/fields with no rest mass to develop life/intelligence? Assume there is no mechanism to generate a rest mass (Higgs, symmetry breaking, etc.)

It seems ridiculous, but I can't think of a good reason why it can't happen since the life/intelligence may not resemble us. Maybe there is an argument using entropy, information theory, etc. that would be persuasive.

share|cite|improve this question

closed as not constructive by David Z May 22 '11 at 2:47

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

the question of life or consciousness per se is a bit towards philosophy or sci-fi but the implication of general information processing capability of various fields is very interesting I think at least. for example, how simple a QFT can still generate a (stable) turing-machine in theory. maybe this question could be rephrased in more specific terms or recast. – BjornW May 21 '11 at 11:13
i think before addressing the general (and very interesting) question of turing-complete-able QFT, one should first establish what sort of diversity of bounded stable states you can achieve with the available fields, only then to consider how to combine such states to produce high-level operations. I've never heard of bounded massless fields, but i would be very interested to know more about that – lurscher May 21 '11 at 12:24
Wouldn't a "glueball" be considered a bound state of massless gluons? We've never seen one, but they seem theoretically possible. – David Santo Pietro May 21 '11 at 15:59
Interesting question, but unless you provide a precise enough definition of "life/intelligence" (or at least a test to determine whether a universe contains it), it's not defined clearly enough. If you edit the question to be more specific on that point, I can reopen it. – David Z May 22 '11 at 2:48

The "no rest mass for particles" happens, according to Big Bang theory at very high energies where everything is flying around and the forces responsible for the binding of quarks into nucleons and nucleons bound to nuclei are not in effect. No nuclei, no DNA.

Once these forces jell, the particles have acquired their mass.

It might be simpler to say that massless particles move with the speed of light and cannot be bound at those speeds; Binding is needed in order to have groupings that could organize into life, if not our DNA, some "DNA". I replied assuming that you were thinking of the time in the evolution of the universe where symmetries were unbroken.

share|cite|improve this answer
Why is DNA/bonding necessary for intelligence? I don't care if the life/intelligence could evolve, only whether it is even possible. A "Boltzmann brain" scenario, where a random distribution of particles happen to find themselves in the right configuration to create a conscious observer would suffice. I am not sure why bonding/DNA are absolutely necessary. – David Santo Pietro May 21 '11 at 5:21
These particles you envision would be bouncing along from one side of the universe to the other with the velocity of light, because of the zero mass. How could any coherence of action appear, let alone a right configuration for consciousness to appear. It is not possible within the physics we know. Further than that, you are talking of science fiction, which must be the province of another stackexchange board. – anna v May 21 '11 at 5:28
Anna, massless particles can still interact, they don't have to go straight through each other. Gluons are massless and interact all the time, very strongly, perhaps even forming "glueballs". I am still not convinced that it (life in massless universe) is not possible given the physics we know. Also, you say this idea is science fiction, but in the first sentence to your answer you said this is what happens in our universe at high energies! – David Santo Pietro May 21 '11 at 15:57
The idea of massless particles organizing into life is science fiction. Gluons in the beginning of the Big Bang are the same as the other gauge bosons. Once the symmetry is broken they are never found outside a nucleus at best. Their strong interactions bind them so the effective mass is not zero. A glue ball once produced would decay into quarks. – anna v May 21 '11 at 18:51

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.