Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Post About Nothing

From a purely theoretical standpoint, is it possible to have nothing? Let's analyze.

Imagine a normal-sized bathroom, floating in space. Naturally, the bathroom has a toilet, bathtub, etc., inside. All those things are something, so get rid of them.

We now have an empty room, floating in space. Except it's not really empty; there's still air. Replace that with a vacuum. But even then, there's still four walls (with blue floral wallpaper) and a (cool tile) floor, so remove those too.

Now we have nothing floating in space. The room we had, for all intents an purposes, is gone. However, it's still not nothing. If we have nothing floating in space, then there's still space, which is something. In order to truly have nothingness, we'd have to create an area where there was no space, make a big wide rip in the fabric of the universe. Now, inside this hole in space-time, we might have nothing. (Your mileage on this may wary, depending on your understanding of theoretical physics.)

The philosophical question really is this: is nothing still something? If nothing is something, we can't ever truly have nothing, because the nothingness itself is still something. If nothing is a lack of anything else, then as long as there is something else besides the nothingness, then the something else provides a meaningful context for the nothing, and thus the nothing is still something. In order to have an area of complete and utter nothingness, there could be nothing else to give it meaning as nothingness. True nothing can only exist in an utterly empty universe, which, quite frankly, is a bit of a depressing thought.

(Sorry if this is hard to read; philosophy isn't terribly light material. Also, I've written "nothing" so many times, it no longer looks like a word. I apologize if reading it this many times has had the same effect.)


  1. There is a word for that phenomenon... but damned if I can remember it.

  2. At the lecture at Drexel, the guy talking about string theory said that there's a new theory developing around the idea that space doesn't exist. So really, your empty vacuum isn't floating in anything, so no rip in spacetime is needed.