Can nothing exist?

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Offline Airthumbs

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Can nothing exist?
« on: 16/03/2012 22:31:19 »
It seems to me a bit silly to think that nothing can exist and that before the big balloon there was nothing.  Nothing in the context of this question, is as the word is defined in the Oxford english dictionary, although I am sure the Cambridge one will do.....  :)

People used to think a vacuum was nothing, but we actually find it is full of stuff!  Then space of course, space was a void, an empty nothingness.

Isn't it about time we took our Viking helmets off and put our paddles down and agree nothing cannot exist?
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Offline wucko

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #1 on: 16/03/2012 23:55:19 »
Lets say: "everything is", the opposite is "nothing is not", but paradoxically, "nothing is not" could also mean exactly that "everythimg is".

"Nothing is not", IMHO, could exist, since no thing is not. A possible sollution to the paradox is: nothing is as real as anything.

 But thats philosophical. nontheless, cant really fragment science as a process of mind.




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Offline neilep

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #2 on: 17/03/2012 05:19:45 »
As a firm believer in empirical study I glanced at my bank statement after wifey has enjoyed some retail therapy and can confirm that nothing does exist.   [;)]

Actually, that may well be the only instances that ' nothing ' does exist when it comes to mathematics ie: 1-1=0 !
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Offline yor_on

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #3 on: 17/03/2012 20:29:09 »
You can use linguistics which have its own quirky logic :) But nothing is defined by being, nothing..
As for a classical treatment then that is what we all use and have on a daily basis. QM is not what we use to make sense of the information we gather. And Qm is 'small scales' and truly theoretical, although a lot of the conclusions are based on experiments the interpretations vary depending on what you expect to be 'truer'.

Macroscopically we have SR and GR, with those two being, in some ways, just as weird as QM. The 'reality' we see at a daily basis is the Newtonian still, where we think of gravity as a 'force' and time as being of a same 'universal' measure. That our technology uses relativistic principles do not change our basic understanding of reality. Our schools is still teaching linear math first etc..
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Offline Airthumbs

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #4 on: 17/03/2012 21:37:58 »
Actually, that may well be the only instances that ' nothing ' does exist when it comes to mathematics ie: 1-1=0 !

So if you wanted to apply a number in maths to the proposed nothing before the big bang I guess it would be represented by 0 in which case I would say that 0=>0 and that can't be right!

PS, I sincerely believe that the word bank is probably one of the dirtiest words in the dictionary and should be put along side words such as....... shart, poop, pest, and parasite. 
« Last Edit: 17/03/2012 21:42:49 by Airthumbs »
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Offline Airthumbs

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #5 on: 17/03/2012 21:55:00 »
"Nothing is not", IMHO, could exist, since no thing is not. A possible sollution to the paradox is: nothing is as real as anything.

 But thats philosophical. nontheless, cant really fragment science as a process of mind.

Philsophical logic is all good, you could eliminate nothing by using Modus ponens;  If there is nothing then there is no universe. There is nothing. Therefore there is no Universe.
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Offline yor_on

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #6 on: 18/03/2012 01:49:22 »
Well, maybe Neil thought of indeterminacy there. That could be seen as being 'null', until presenting us with a outcome in which case we both must introduce a 'space' and a 'time' for that outcome to be measured/observed in?

ahem :)
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Offline neilep

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #7 on: 18/03/2012 04:55:58 »
Well, maybe Neil thought of indeterminacy there. That could be seen as being 'null', until presenting us with a outcome in which case we both must introduce a 'space' and a 'time' for that outcome to be measured/observed in?

ahem :)

Well, after all it is me !  ;)
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Offline wucko

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #8 on: 18/03/2012 19:45:47 »
"Nothing is not", IMHO, could exist, since no thing is not. A possible sollution to the paradox is: nothing is as real as anything.

 But thats philosophical. nontheless, cant really fragment science as a process of mind.

Philsophical logic is all good, you could eliminate nothing by using Modus ponens;  If there is nothing then there is no universe. There is nothing. Therefore there is no Universe.

to compare:

"nohing is" and "everything is not" with its opposite: "everything is" and "nothing is not".

if nothing is, then everything is not, but if everything is,  even nothing is. only the second case is paradoxical, but, since there is something (anything): if there is everything, ther is also nothing, while even true, that nothing is not.

if there is nothing, ther is no everything ? yes/no?




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Offline wucko

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #9 on: 18/03/2012 19:52:57 »
As a firm believer in empirical study I glanced at my bank statement after wifey has enjoyed some retail therapy and can confirm that nothing does exist.   [;)]

Actually, that may well be the only instances that ' nothing ' does exist when it comes to mathematics ie: 1-1=0 !

yes, but that means you are left with 1-1=0$, but 0$ is not nothing. its somtehing. its no money. Are you saying "no money" doesnt exist?.

the original question (unwantingly) touches the meaning of "nothing". Im glad id does :)

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Offline wucko

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #10 on: 18/03/2012 20:01:01 »
Actually, that may well be the only instances that ' nothing ' does exist when it comes to mathematics ie: 1-1=0 !

So if you wanted to apply a number in maths to the proposed nothing before the big bang I guess it would be represented by 0 in which case I would say that 0=>0 and that can't be right!

PS, I sincerely believe that the word bank is probably one of the dirtiest words in the dictionary and should be put along side words such as....... shart, poop, pest, and parasite. 

i think the best representation for nothing would be '?'.

so ? != 0, since 0=0 & ?\=0

hence, nothing is not zero, null, void, blank, no value, the sum of the opposites, what i made last year, how much my wife spent today, or what i ate yesterday. Nothing is nothing.

Is there nothing? I think there is, but (look further posts) that must mean that everything doesnt exist (its not whole, because there is also nothing as part of it).

as for the BB theory, that would mean: if we allow nothing before the BB, we must allow for everything to never accour, since there was (or eternaly is) nothing also.

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Offline Soul Surfer

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #11 on: 18/03/2012 23:24:48 »
Try thinking of this problem in a different way.  Our nothing is the quantum mechanical vacuum that averages out to nothing in the long term.  However for brief periods all sorts of things can exist.  Some sorts of things once they are created out of this nothing can exist for a very long time and basically our universe is a load of bits that have got caught into this pattern of existing for a long time by a big disturbance of the northing a long time ago.  Given sufficient time they will eventually merge back into the nothing.
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Offline grizelda

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #12 on: 19/03/2012 03:18:32 »
And of course during the time that they are nothing there will be no time, so they won't be nothing for long.

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Offline Ęthelwulf

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #13 on: 19/03/2012 04:42:23 »
''Nothing'' is the opposite of ''something''. It just implies that something in a certain form will not exist - it is a logically-consistent arguement.

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Offline yor_on

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #14 on: 19/03/2012 15:28:59 »
Wucko why do I get the impression that you're putting 'one upon us' here?
Having fun with boolean logic, are we :)

Words are words, I would call them 'non linear' as they seem to be able to change meaning depending on what sentence I put them in, etc, look at Chinese for example where pictograms can mean one thing in one context, but in another context something totally different.

Boolean logic is cool for computers, and maybe for sentences, but you need to agree on exactly what they mean before using boolean logic on them.
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Offline Nizzle

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #15 on: 20/03/2012 10:01:34 »
''Nothing'' is the opposite of ''something''. It just implies that something in a certain form will not exist - it is a logically-consistent arguement.

"Nothing" is the opposite of "something", "anything" AND "everything".
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Offline wucko

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #16 on: 02/04/2012 19:07:20 »
Wucko why do I get the impression that you're putting 'one upon us' here?
Having fun with boolean logic, are we :)

Words are words, I would call them 'non linear' as they seem to be able to change meaning depending on what sentence I put them in, etc, look at Chinese for example where pictograms can mean one thing in one context, but in another context something totally different.

Boolean logic is cool for computers, and maybe for sentences, but you need to agree on exactly what they mean before using boolean logic on them.

no, neednt define directly and you actually cant define nothing directly. again, what is interesting to me still, about nothing, is : that only one permutation of the boolean fun-game is paradoxical, other isnt. "nohing is" and "everything is not"  against "everything is" and "nothing is not". the second statement is a paradox, the firs isnt.

to me, this would imply, that the original question isnt correct, that its opposite IS the question: "can nothing not exist"
« Last Edit: 02/04/2012 19:15:21 by wucko »

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Offline wucko

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #17 on: 02/04/2012 19:22:42 »
''Nothing'' is the opposite of ''something''. It just implies that something in a certain form will not exist - it is a logically-consistent arguement.

"Nothing" is the opposite of "something", "anything" AND "everything".

= -> "is"
!= -> "is not":

everything = something
everything != anything
everything != nothing
something !=everything
something != anything
something != nothing
anything = something
anything != everything
anything != nothing

+ a special case:

noting !=something

but, nothing is the opposite  of everything, since you must erase or cancel out everything (not anything or something) to be left with nothing.
« Last Edit: 02/04/2012 20:00:05 by wucko »

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Offline wucko

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #18 on: 02/04/2012 19:48:04 »
Try thinking of this problem in a different way.  Our nothing is the quantum mechanical vacuum that averages out to nothing in the long term.  However for brief periods all sorts of things can exist.  Some sorts of things once they are created out of this nothing can exist for a very long time and basically our universe is a load of bits that have got caught into this pattern of existing for a long time by a big disturbance of the northing a long time ago.  Given sufficient time they will eventually merge back into the nothing.

yes, but that would imply a certain mystical characteristic to "the long term", such as being able to cancel everything out, even such things as really big (and nice) problems :)

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Offline yadi999

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #19 on: 02/04/2012 22:57:52 »
In a search for god, the first imposibly complicated question I ever asked myself was...
    'In the beginning, how could something have ever come from nothing?'
From steven hawkins I recently saw the answer, we exist within nothing. Try thinking about it like this, if I was sat within a black hole, in what state would the universe on the outside be in? it wouldnt have started but it would of finished. It simply wouldn't exist. If you could create nothing i would not be suprised if you gave birth to everything we have ever known...
Heres my ingenius mathamatical equasion for our universe from the start...
  0=+1-1=+2+1-1-2=(11-9)-2= n' so on forever, into infinity.


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Offline wucko

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #20 on: 03/04/2012 16:22:55 »
could you not create nothing? :)

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Offline David Cooper

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #21 on: 03/04/2012 21:49:42 »
Take the sentence: Nothing exists in this box. This could be read literally as a statement that an amount of nothing exists in the box, but it's intended to be understood as: "This box does not have anything in it". That isn't the end of the story, of course, because there's still a game being played with the word "thing": some things are not normally thought of as things, such as space. The space exists in the box even if there isn't anything in there that we would normally describe as a thing, but something must be maintaining the spatial separations within the box: there has to be a fabric of space filling the entire thing, otherwise opposite walls of the box would be in direct contact with each other.

Now let's think outside the box. Is there anywhere where there isn't anything? Anywhere you go inside the universe, you're going to find the same conditions as in the box - there is lots of apparently empty space which must be filled with a fabric which maintains separations. We have to think outside of the universe. If there is a space of some kind out there, the same will apply to it - it cannot really be empty because it will need a fabric to maintain separations. Take away that fabric and you lose the space with it - you lose the place for "nothing" to not exist in. There is no expance of nothing anywhere - not inside nor outside of the universe: there can only be stuff. A hole is a lack of material, but the hole can only be a hole by containing something else - take away all of its content and the hole is no more.

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Offline Pmb

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #22 on: 04/04/2012 00:13:01 »
It seems to me a bit silly to think that nothing can exist and that before the big balloon there was nothing.  Nothing in the context of this question, is as the word is defined in the Oxford english dictionary, although I am sure the Cambridge one will do.....  :)

People used to think a vacuum was nothing, but we actually find it is full of stuff!  Then space of course, space was a void, an empty nothingness.

Isn't it about time we took our Viking helmets off and put our paddles down and agree nothing cannot exist?
I disagree. This is  a very hard question for me to answer but I'll give it whirl.  Since space itself can exist since we can measure it with a ruler and that space can be empty of matter then nothing cam exist. But I'm very very open to other opinions here. :)

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Offline yor_on

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #23 on: 04/04/2012 01:32:09 »
I agree Pete, the example with a piston moving creating a vacuum inside its chamber is enough to prove the existence of creating a 'nothing'. But as the piston wants to rejoin its former balance the question becomes; Is that an example of the 'negative vacuum energy' as some think, or is it just an example of pressure from surrounding matter, as atmosphere etc.

Classically that vacuum is empty, I don't care what 'energy' one ascribes to a vacuum in a QM setting. To matter/mass a perfect vacuum/space is perfectly empty, showing us no resistance, ever..
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Offline JP

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #24 on: 04/04/2012 03:18:02 »
Since this is in a physics forum, I'm assuming it's asking about whether you can physically observe "nothing."  The answer is no.  To make an observation you need space and time, and space and time have properties (and energy!) so they aren't "nothing."

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Offline yor_on

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #25 on: 04/04/2012 06:36:07 »
Classically Space have one, two, or four properties that I know of. Gravity, which Einstein called the 'metric' for making a 'space', and 'distances'. You can split 'distance' in length, width and height, defining a 3D-space.

To that you can add a arrow, although?
Locally or globally?

So yes, 'space' is 'something' but it is also a 'nothing' in the motto that it show no resistance and is no classical 'medium'. We can't even measure a ray propagating in it. The only thing we can prove to 'move' in the vacuum is mass. That is if you as me prefer direct measurements, going over to indirect, using weak measurements only your imagination sets the limits.
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Offline JP

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #26 on: 04/04/2012 17:37:56 »
True, Yor_on.  But the fact that we can admit that space has properties and still shoehorn it into some definition of 'nothing' shows why it's more useful to talk in specific terms about what properties space has rather than trying to force a broad and poorly defined (in a scientific sense) term like 'nothing' to describe it.

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #27 on: 04/04/2012 21:58:18 »
Quote
as for the BB theory, that would mean: if we allow nothing before the BB, we must allow for everything to never accour, since there was (or eternaly is) nothing also.

I agree.  There can never have been a time when there was nothing, otherwise there would still be nothing now. 

Probably someone will say: "Nothing exists, therefore there is nothing now" but that's just semantics and leads to endless discussion that is only of philosophical interest. 

Should we agree that absolutely nothing is absolutely nothing; it is meaningless to say that it exists, or does not exist; it is nothing.  The nothing of physicists is really something; it exists, it changes and it can be discussed.


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Offline yor_on

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #28 on: 05/04/2012 08:18:53 »
Well. classically it isn't poorly defined :)
As that is the way we observe the vacuum normally.

Heh.

But yes JP, I agree. If we add all other effects we find, as the Casimir force, then it definitely is 'something' more than only 'empty'. That is me assuming that the Casimir force is a result of hidden 'energy', and not a result from matter of course. Maybe this can be considered a proof though? Moving mirrors.

It's also interesting to note that in 'General Relativity, as the modern theory of the gravitation, the gravitative effect of vacuum-energy results in the cosmological constant Λ' according to some sources. Although

"Although the existence of the vacuum-energy is proven, its energy-density is still unclear today. The value of the energy-density is regarded as the largest discrepancy in modern physics. As an average over several literature references of cosmology, the energy-density can be estimated at about (9.0±0.27)·10-10J/m3, whereas in Geometrodynamics a value of h·c·π/Lp4=3.32·10+113J/m3 is suspected.

However the latter value is calculated by an integration over all wavelengths of the quantum mechanical zero point oscillations within the vacuum (these are infinitesimally many), whereby divergence problems are suppressed simply by the means of cut-off radii. Several other approaches to suppress the divergence problems of these improper integrals (leading to the energy density) result in further other values for the energy-density of the vacuum, but they do not solve the problem of the ambiguity." From  Definite Proof for the Conversion of vacuum-energy into mechanical energy based on the Measurement of Machine Power.

And no, the later I will not use as a proof, but it seems interesting still?
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Offline Ęthelwulf

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #29 on: 05/04/2012 13:06:08 »
Quote
as for the BB theory, that would mean: if we allow nothing before the BB, we must allow for everything to never accour, since there was (or eternaly is) nothing also.

I agree.  There can never have been a time when there was nothing, otherwise there would still be nothing now. 

Probably someone will say: "Nothing exists, therefore there is nothing now" but that's just semantics and leads to endless discussion that is only of philosophical interest. 

Should we agree that absolutely nothing is absolutely nothing; it is meaningless to say that it exists, or does not exist; it is nothing.  The nothing of physicists is really something; it exists, it changes and it can be discussed.

Indeed. If space and time truely are the same, and assuming time exists and timelessness is wrong, then there cannot be anything before time itself.

If the universe however was born from no time, which our current theory seems to be suggesting, then what happened before big bang truely is limitless.

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Offline Ęthelwulf

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #30 on: 05/04/2012 13:06:48 »
Quote
as for the BB theory, that would mean: if we allow nothing before the BB, we must allow for everything to never accour, since there was (or eternaly is) nothing also.

I agree.  There can never have been a time when there was nothing, otherwise there would still be nothing now. 

Probably someone will say: "Nothing exists, therefore there is nothing now" but that's just semantics and leads to endless discussion that is only of philosophical interest. 

Should we agree that absolutely nothing is absolutely nothing; it is meaningless to say that it exists, or does not exist; it is nothing.  The nothing of physicists is really something; it exists, it changes and it can be discussed.

Indeed. If space and time truely are the same, and assuming time exists and timelessness is wrong, then there cannot be anything before time itself.

If the universe however was born from no time, which our current theory seems to be suggesting, then what happened before big bang truely is limitless.

Anyway, saying that ''nothing exists'' is a paradox unto itself.

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Offline Ethos_

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #31 on: 18/12/2013 16:57:52 »


Anyway, saying that ''nothing exists'' is a paradox unto itself.
I agree, and even if one considers a volume of so-called empty space, quantum fluctuations are constantly producing virtual particles that come in and out of existence. The very energy that produced our present universe is spread homogenously thru out it's entirety. Nowhere in our present space/time is nothingness possible.
"The more things change, the more they remain the same."

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Offline dlorde

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #32 on: 18/12/2013 19:36:09 »
'Empty' space, the quantum vacuum, isn't nothing, it's spacetime. If you look closely, it's seething with the virtual particles of 'quantum foam'. Nothing is the absence of anything. It exists only in the abstract, as a concept.

Reminds me of the 'Hackenthorpe vacuum' of my student days - take an ordinary vacuum, then suck all the vacuum out [;)]

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #33 on: 18/12/2013 20:15:22 »
The resurrection of this thread caused me to re-read it.  There’s a lot of fascinating philosophical stuff in it, but in terms of scientific logic it seems to come down to:

Nothing = no thing.  Things can exist - nothing cannot.

Nothing is the absence of existence, therefore one might assert that “no thing exists”, but this is an example misleading semantics, which do no more than lead round in aimless circles. 

There’s a catch here, though; because if we argue that nothing cannot be said to exist, then it follows that there can never have been nothing, and we all know the trouble that sort of statement can get us into.  :)

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Offline Ethos_

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #34 on: 18/12/2013 22:24:09 »
The resurrection of this thread caused me to re-read it.  There’s a lot of fascinating philosophical stuff in it, but in terms of scientific logic it seems to come down to:

Nothing = no thing.  Things can exist - nothing cannot.

Nothing is the absence of existence, therefore one might assert that “no thing exists”, but this is an example misleading semantics, which do no more than lead round in aimless circles. 

There’s a catch here, though; because if we argue that nothing cannot be said to exist, then it follows that there can never have been nothing, and we all know the trouble that sort of statement can get us into.  :)
Actually Bill, if you study M theory, or what's more commonly called Brane theory, it suggests that even outside our present universe there exists an infinite number of membrane universes.

Coming from a purely logical stance, one could argue that because something exists in this realm of reality, something has always existed and therefore, nothing has ever been the norm nor ever will be.
"The more things change, the more they remain the same."

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Offline Bill S

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #35 on: 19/12/2013 14:07:35 »
Quote from: Ethos
Coming from a purely logical stance, one could argue that because something exists in this realm of reality, something has always existed and therefore, nothing has ever been the norm nor ever will be.

Absolutely!  But as JP eloquently, and correctly, points out elsewhere, that argument involves making assumptions that cannot be scientifically justified.   

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Offline Ethos_

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Re: Can nothing exist?
« Reply #36 on: 19/12/2013 15:23:53 »
Quote from: Ethos
Coming from a purely logical stance, one could argue that because something exists in this realm of reality, something has always existed and therefore, nothing has ever been the norm nor ever will be.

Absolutely!  But as JP eloquently, and correctly, points out elsewhere, that argument involves making assumptions that cannot be scientifically justified.
Very true Bill, evidence is still very thin and presumably may stay that way for a very long time.
"The more things change, the more they remain the same."