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is 'nothing' possible?

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Posted (edited)

you often hear the "why is there something rather than nothing?" idea being discussed with relation to the origins of the universe.

but is "nothing" even possible? Our rudimentary brains tend to associate 'nothingness' with empty space , but apparently scientists have come to think that even empty space is "something" . there is activity there. there is something going on that is enabling that empty space to exist.  to me, a layman, that can only suggest that nothingness is not even possible. It is an abstract concept. than therefore that is why there is "something, rather than nothing"

because there HAS to be. 

am i on the right track?

Edited by boo

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1 minute ago, boo said:

you often hear the "why is there something rather than nothing?" idea being discussed with relation to the origins of the universe.

but is "nothing" even possible? Our rudimentary brains tend to associate 'nothingness' with empty space , but apparently scientists have come to think that even empty space is "something" . there is activity there. there is something going on that is allowing that empty space to exist.  to me, a layman, that can only suggest that nothingness is not even possible. It is an abstract concept. than therefore that is why there is "something, rather than nothing"

because there HAS to be. 

am i on the right track?

Interesting and I tend to agree. Perhaps we need to redefine what nothing is? Perhaps the quantum foam from whence the BB arose is as close to nothing as we can get? 

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Do you see matter around you? You see it just because photons are traveling from it to your eyes (or electronic sensor etc.). Photons are emitted by matter with energies according to temperature of object ("blackbody emission spectrum"), and existing photons are reflected or refracted by object. So, even "empty space", cosmic space, between stars, between galaxies, is full of photons. At the moment.

 

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ok,  heres a question that id like to ask those of you more knowledgable than me.

Is the existence of space somehow linked to the existence of matter? could the space still exist if the matter was not there?

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Posted (edited)
14 minutes ago, boo said:

Is the existence of space somehow linked to the existence of matter? could the space still exist if the matter was not there?

A tentative 'no'.

First (methodological hammer) reaction: when space is empty, there logically also cannot be an observer. So could we ever know?

Second: where Newton believed there is absolute space, in which all processes occur, in special relativity this is not the case anymore. What counts are relative positions and velocities. So in this sense, space would be 'spun' by the relative positions of all objects. See for example the discussion between Leibniz and Newton (warning, heavy read; but surely interesting).

 

Edited by Eise

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Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, boo said:

ok,  heres a question that id like to ask those of you more knowledgable than me.

Is the existence of space somehow linked to the existence of matter? could the space still exist if the matter was not there?

There isn't really an easy answer to that.

One can create models of spacetime that have no matter or energy. These are useful for understanding the properties of spacetime itself, without that pesky matter confusion things. (Not surprisingly, these model universes don't behave like our own!)

So, in principle, space and time could exist without matter.

However, there are models that attempt to combine quantum theory and general relativity and quite a few of these show that spacetime emerges from some lower level description. As does energy (and, presumably, matter). If any of these turn out to be correct then there is an inevitable connection between the existence of matter-energy and space-time.

And, of course, without matter we would not be here to ask the question!

Edit: cross-posted with Eise (and, reassuringly, in general agreement!)

Edited by Strange
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1 hour ago, boo said:

you often hear the "why is there something rather than nothing?" idea being discussed with relation to the origins of the universe.

but is "nothing" even possible? Our rudimentary brains tend to associate 'nothingness' with empty space , but apparently scientists have come to think that even empty space is "something" . there is activity there. there is something going on that is enabling that empty space to exist.  to me, a layman, that can only suggest that nothingness is not even possible. It is an abstract concept. than therefore that is why there is "something, rather than nothing"

because there HAS to be. 

am i on the right track?

 

You have posted this in the Physcis section, rather than the Philosophy section so I take it you are looking for a Physcs answer.

The question is "nothing" even possible?"  is really for the philosophers.

A hard bitten Physicist will say that "'nothing' certainly exists."

She will say "hey look I can use a chunk of "nothing" to complete my capacitor."

"I have two charged plates so all I need is some "nothing" to keep them apart and I have a capacitor!"

Empty space has properties, not least permittivity .

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1 hour ago, studiot said:

 

You have posted this in the Physcis section, rather than the Philosophy section

im not sure which of the two sections it belongs in. 

thanks for your response

 

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1 hour ago, studiot said:

The question is "nothing" even possible?"  is really for the philosophers.

!

Moderator Note

Good point: moved.

 

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9 hours ago, Strange said:

There isn't really an easy answer to that.

One can create models of spacetime that have no matter or energy. These are useful for understanding the properties of spacetime itself, without that pesky matter confusion things. (Not surprisingly, these model universes don't behave like our own!)

So, in principle, space and time could exist without matter.

Hmmmm, I may throw a spanner into the works on the point of whether spacetime can or cannot exist without the matter energy within.......

https://einstein.stanford.edu/content/relativity/a11332.html

Can space exist by itself without matter or energy around?

"No. Experiments continue to show that there is no 'space' that stands apart from space-time itself...no arena in which matter, energy and gravity operate which is not affected by matter, energy and gravity. General relativity tells us that what we call space is just another feature of the gravitational field of the universe, so space and space-time can and do not exist apart from the matter and energy that creates the gravitational field. This is not speculation, but sound observation".

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

The highlighted part had me confused and so I E-Mailed Sten Odenwald quite a few years ago on that. I received a reply that it was a typographical/publishing error and that it should simply read, "so space and space-time do not exist apart from the matter and energy that creates the gravitational field"

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34 minutes ago, beecee said:

Hmmmm, I may throw a spanner into the works on the point of whether spacetime can or cannot exist without the matter energy within.......

https://einstein.stanford.edu/content/relativity/a11332.html

Can space exist by itself without matter or energy around?

"No. Experiments continue to show that there is no 'space' that stands apart from space-time itself...no arena in which matter, energy and gravity operate which is not affected by matter, energy and gravity. General relativity tells us that what we call space is just another feature of the gravitational field of the universe, so space and space-time can and do not exist apart from the matter and energy that creates the gravitational field. This is not speculation, but sound observation".

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

The highlighted part had me confused and so I E-Mailed Sten Odenwald quite a few years ago on that. I received a reply that it was a typographical/publishing error and that it should simply read, "so space and space-time do not exist apart from the matter and energy that creates the gravitational field"

That’s not the question, though. That link makes the distinction between space and spacetime (“no 'space' that stands apart from space-time itself”) and says that gravity exists everywhere (“no arena in which matter, energy and gravity operate which is not affected by matter, energy and gravity”)

It doesn’t address whether you could have nothing. It simply observes that that isn’t the situation we’ in.

 

There is a notion within physics that “nothing” would be an unstable state 

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