Nothing (repost)

in Deep Dives2 months ago

Is hard to grasp. No, It's not that everything is graspable. The word "nothing" is a funny thing to think about. So, here's a short post about nothing at all...


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image by Zaneology - source: flickr

What is "nothing"? That question in itself is kind of a conundrum. The very meaning of the word implies that it cannot "be". It's not there. It can't be, so the question what it "is", is a contradiction in itself.

Think of "nothing". But how could I? Thinking about "nothing" I'm still thinking about something when trying to do that: I'm trying to imagine the meaning of the word in my mind's eye and I keep failing. Is it unending blackness? Nope, that's something. Is it silence? Emptiness? A vacuum?

Let's try the dictionary. Oh wait, we're on the internet, so Wikipedia it is:

Nothing is a concept denoting the absence of something, and is associated with nothingness. In non-technical uses, nothing denotes things lacking importance, interest, value, relevance, or significance. Nothingness is the state of being nothing, the state of nonexistence of anything, or the property of having nothing.
source: Wikipedia

Darn... Wikipedia is better than I am ;-) So, "...the state of nonexistence of anything" is the best we got until now. Although I would add "at all" at the very end of that...

I would like to challenge you and try to answer the following: Is the question "why is there something instead of nothing" a stupid question?

It's the oldest question we have as sentient beings: why does everything exist? When did all this get started and how did it come to be? And I mean everything, not just our universe; when and how did nothing become something? And was there ever a state of nonexistence of anything?


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Albert Einstein
image by ParentRap - source: pixabay


Einstein once thought that his cosmological constant was his biggest mistake, but it wasn't:

In cosmology, the cosmological constant (usually denoted by the Greek capital letter lambda: ?) is the value of the energy density of the vacuum of space. It was originally introduced by Albert Einstein in 1917 as an addition to his theory of general relativity to "hold back gravity" and achieve a static universe, which was the accepted view at the time.
source: Wikipedia

Yes, the great Einstein "fudged" the equations to match his calculations to the wisdom of his day, which was a static, non-expanding universe. But now we know that even his cheating was brilliant:

The cosmological constant is the simplest possible form of dark energy since it is constant in both space and time, and this leads to the current standard model of cosmology known as the Lambda-CDM model, which provides a good fit to many cosmological observations.
source: Wikipedia

His cosmological constant became the "nothingness" in-between the stuff that makes up our visible universe, the nothingness that now appears not to be nothing at all. Years ago I saw this lecture by Lawrence Krauss entitled "A Universe From Nothing", and he startled me with the following assertion. He said that if scientists add up all the energy in the known universe, with all matter (because E=MC2 remember?), light, heat, everything including all negative gravitational energy, that that all adds up to... zero. NOTHING. Everything we know exists adds up to nothing at all... It was during the time he promoted his book A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing, and he hypothesized that everything really could have come from nothing, given a mechanism to split "nothing" into its positive and negative components.


What is "nothing"? CNN interview with Lawrence Krauss

Boggles the mind, I know. But that's exactly why I like thinking about this so much :-) Something from nothing is the question that divides science and religion. Or does it? In religion there's never a point when there's nothing. God is eternal, He's always there. Somehow, looking at the entirety of existence with my limited human mind, creation by some all powerful being seems like less of a miracle to me than spontaneous existence popping up from nonexistence. And God isn't the only place to find eternity of existence: Einsteins static universe was eternal to, and static, non-expanding.

Actually that wasn't Einsteins model of the universe, but Fred Hoyle's model. A fun thing to note here is that the term Big Bang was coined by Hoyle as a derogatory term to make fun of that theory, as he was convinced the universe was static (but so did Einstein, so he was in good company):

He also held controversial stances on other scientific matters—in particular his rejection of the "Big Bang" theory, a term coined by him on BBC radio.
source: Wikipedia

Although Hoyle was proven wrong, for now and for this particular universe, no one knows what lies beyond the visible universe. No one knows if we're just one of many in a multiverse, and maybe the multiverse is static and eternal, negating the need for creation or a creator. Here's another question: if the universe is expanding, what's it expanding into? Nothing? One thing I know for sure: "nothing" never existed and never will exist, since it is nonexistence. If you're as eager to fill your mind with useless knowledge about nothing, below is the entire lecture from Lawrence Krauss. It's an hour long, but it's real fun to watch (or at least wacky me thought so):


Lawrence Krauss: A Universe From Nothing

And if you really have nothing at all to do, here's an hour and a half discussion about just that between different scientists and philosophers from the World Science Festival:


NOTHING: The Science of Emptiness

I have nothing more to add.


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Wow, quite a nice piece you've got here. One can indeed be thinking of many things at a time and yet he is thinking about nothing in particular. It really has to do with the state of the human mind.

 2 months ago Reveal Comment