Nothing

16 Jan ’15 :Todays Q: NOTHING?

Much ado about ‘nothing’…..
There are physicists 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 is it possible that the universe really did come from nothing? If that’s the case, then “nothing” is everything we see around us, and “everything” is nothing.
What are your thoughts about nothing?

To me OM describes one possible interpretation of nothing – that which is not something.

There seem to be at least two other non-trivial interpretations worthy of consideration.

One is the empty set, like an empty room. We say there is nothing in a room, when actually physics tells some of us that there are a great many things in an empty room, but we have no way to easily distinguish them with our eyes under normal circumstances. So in this sense “nothing” is a lack of distinguished things in some aspect of our model of the world. In this aspect, we have distinctions (from prior experience) and we sense none of those present, so we say there is nothing there (meaning none of our distinctions).

Another aspect of nothing could be seen as simply being an idea. Perhaps there is no such thing as nothing, perhaps there is simply the current limits to our ability to perceive or conceive. Perhaps it really is “turtles all the way down” as Terry Pratchett would say.
In this sense, the concept of nothing as elucidated by OM would be an illusion born of a distinction in simple polarity.

And I cannot at this time think of any possible test to distinguish between those two hypotheses.

[followed by]

Hi OM,

I was thinking more specifically, yet infinitely at the same time, of being the empty set of all possible sets, both specifically and generally. Thus when considering tables, the empty set of tables is nothing, within the distinction “table”. So if you are looking for tables, you look in a room, and see no tables, and someone asks “See anything”, then “nothing” is a sensible response (within the distinction table). Similarly for any distinction, or set of distinctions (which includes abstracts, or abstracts of abstracts, ….).

The other level I was referring to was something quite distinct.

At the level of existence (whatever that might be) it does seem entirely possible that there is no empty set. It does seem to be possible that at some level there is something there to be distinguished, but that we have not yet made such a distinction, because we lack some combination of the physical and or intellectual tools to allow us to do so.

It was in this sense that I was using the “turtles all the way down” metaphor.

In this sense, the idea of “nothing” would be an illusion, a simplistic assumption born of human minds that much prefer to work in binaries rather than infinities.

And as I said – I have no experimental design to choose between the competing hypotheses, and my general preference simply from the elegance of the logic tends towards giving the “illusion” hypothesis greater probability (and that is all from analogy, all indirect in that sense).

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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