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What is Nothing?

21 Aug , 2014

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Video

Is there any place in the Universe where there’s truly nothing? Consider the gaps between stars and galaxies? Or the gaps between atoms? What are the properties of nothing?

I want you to take a second and think about nothing. Close your eyes. Picture it in your mind. Focus. Fooooocus. On nothing….It’s pretty hard, isn’t it? Especially when I keep nattering at you.

Instead, let’s just consider the vast spaces between stars and galaxies, or the gaps between atoms and other microscopic particles. When we talk about nothing in the vast reaches between of space, it’s not actually, technically nothing. Got that? It’s not nothing. There’s… something there.

Even in the gulfs of intergalactic space, there are hundreds or thousands of particles in every cubic meter. But even if you could rent MegaMaid from a Dark Helmet surplus store, and vacuum up those particles, there would still be wavelengths of radiation, stretching across vast distances of space.

There’s the inevitable reach of gravity stretching across the entire Universe. There’s the weak magnetic field from a distant quasar. It’s infinitesimally weak, but it’s not nothing. It’s still something.

Philosophers, and some physicists, argue that *that* nothing isn’t the same as “real” nothing. Different physicists see different things as nothing, from nothing is classical vacuum, to the idea of nothing as undifferentiated potential.

Even if you could remove all the particles, shield against all electric and magnetic fields, your box would still contain gravity, because gravity can never be shielded or cancelled out. Gravity doesn’t go away, and it’s always attractive, so you can’t do anything to block it. In Newton’s physics that’s because it is a force, but in general relativity space and time *are* gravity.

Quantum theory includes strange  particles like these quarks, seen here in a three-dimensional computer-generated simulation.  PASIEKA/SPL

Quantum theory includes strange particles like these quarks, seen here in a three-dimensional computer-generated simulation. PASIEKA/SPL

So, imagine if you could remove all particles, energy, gravity… everything from a system. You’d be left with a true vacuum. Even at its lowest energy level, there are fluctuations in the quantum vacuum of the Universe. There are quantum particles popping into and out of existence throughout the Universe. There’s nothing, then pop, something, and then the particles collide and you’re left with nothing again. And so, even if you could remove everything from the Universe, you’d still be left with these quantum fluctuations embedded in spacetime.

There are physicists like Lawrence Krauss that argue the “universe from nothing”, really meaning “the universe from a potentiality”. Which comes down to if you add all the mass and energy in the universe, all the gravitational curvature, everything… it looks like it all sums up to zero. So it is possible that the universe really did come from nothing. And if that’s the case, then “nothing” is everything we see around us, and “everything” is nothing.

What do you think? How do you wrap your head around the idea of nothing? Tell us in the comments below. And if you like what you see, come check out our Patreon page and find out how you can get these videos early while helping us bring you more great content!

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Tihomir
Member
Tihomir
August 21, 2014 3:43 PM
So, in general relativity (GR), space and time are “gravity”…? Are you sure? Is then the Higgs particle a form of space and time? In GR, there is no “space” and there is no “time” – there is “spacetime”, since it’s all about velocity, and not about space being one, and time being another thing all together. Gravity, on the other hand, IS another thing. It is a property of matter, supposedly/probably due to the Higgs. Gravity itself has a property to bend spacetime – but that does not make one equal to another. And yes, I think you’re right about the similarity between philosophers and physicists arguing about what “nothing” really is. Some GR aspects can apparently… Read more »
Manu
Member
Manu
August 21, 2014 8:25 PM

Nope nope nope.
You’re confusing gravity with mass.
Gravity (in GR) ‘doesn’t exist’, it’s space-time curvature that is perceived as such. It is definitely NOT a property of matter, even though that curvature may result from (among other things) matter inertia.
Mass on the other hand (more specifically ‘rest-mass’) is a property of matter, likely originating from interaction with the Higgs field etc.

Manu
Member
Manu
August 21, 2014 8:32 PM

(tried to edit my comment but couldn’t, adding new comment instead)

It’s interesting that GR originated in Einstein’s postulating that ‘inertial mass’ (the mass that’s responsible for car crash casualties) and ‘gravitational mass’ (the mass that’s attracted by gravity) are one and the same. Consequently, there is no gravitational force, only inertial movement. Consequently, space-time must be curved so that orbiting bodies move in ‘straight lines’ (geodesics) in that curved space-time. How smart is that? =)

cyclesrfun
Member
cyclesrfun
August 21, 2014 8:29 PM
I read a lot of theory, and from what I’ve surmised, Gravity is not a property of matter at all, but that of spacetime. Matter may induce and vary a gravitational field, but the properties of gravity lie with spacetime itself… in other words,- bent spacetime is gravity. Going out on a limb on a related note, Dark Matter, which also induces gravity, may not be matter at all. We just call it “matter” because we have no evidence of anything else inducing a gravitational field…but it doesn’t seem like matter to me. I wouldnt be surprised if it were eventually found to be a different phase of spacetime. Very soon I believe, the Higgs particle as it… Read more »
bfmorris
Member
bfmorris
August 21, 2014 8:53 PM

I agree with your perspective. haha @ the graviton comment, It appears particle physicists live by particles and will die by particles.

Simply put, it appears there is no such thing as ‘nothing’, our universe is nonlocal; only the appearance of nothing as portrayed by some far deeper substrate that in my best guess is in turn modulated by a creative force. I predict physics will eventually play out before the big answers and ultimately the baton will have to be handed to the philosophers. So in my opinion Fraser’s question is a philosophical question.

sabel
Member
sabel
August 23, 2014 7:19 AM
Everything is nothing at the same time. These things are understood by Living Awareness beyond Consciousness and can be explained by modern day Quantum Physics. I suggest you to check out: Here on this website called Life is Living Art, there’s amazing perspective on consciousness and Living Awareness beyond it. Cutting Edge stuff that I’m not came across anywhere else. “In Randomness there is Divine Order – Structure, which is contained within everything and no-thing at the same time. Here on this page I have demonstrated how the idea of Quantum Teleportation actually works and I have a solid proof of this system in action. Our modern day understanding of Quantum Physics and the nature of Reality has… Read more »
sabel
Member
sabel
August 23, 2014 7:20 AM
Holofractographic model of reality makes this possible: A Living Sea of Holofractographic Interconnected Wholes – Life is Living Art: Over the past decades compelling evidence has accumulated, that shows us without a shadow of a doubt, that quanta (plural of quantum) only manifest as particles, when we’re looking at them. When an electron isn’t being looked at, experimental findings show us, that it’s always a wave. If you break matter into smaller and smaller parts, you eventually reach a point where those parts – electrons, protons, and so on – no longer posesses the traits of objects. This means, that also electron posesses no dimension whatsoever. An electron is simply not an object, as we have used to… Read more »
sabel
Member
sabel
August 23, 2014 7:21 AM
And interconnectedness of everything is experienced directly through synchronicity: Phenomenon of Synchronicity ~ Interconnectedness of Everything – Life is Living Art Synchronicities are meaningful coincidences, that are often so unusual and meaningful, that they could hardly be attributed to chance alone. Synchronicities reveal the absence of division between the physical world and our inner psychological reality, which reflects spiritual world. Carl Jung, who coined the word synchronicity, worked closely with Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Pauli, the pioneers of relativity and quantum physics. He believed there were serious and significant parallels between synchronicity and aspects of relativity theory and quantum mechanics. Both Jung and Pauli postulated, that life was not a series of random events, but rather an expression… Read more »
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