Many of us would define nothing as being the absence of everything.
One would think that some as simple as that would be easy to define.
However history has shown that it is not the case.
For example Parmenides argued that “nothing” cannot exist because to speak of a thing, one has to speak of a thing that exists. Therefore nothing (or empty space) cannot exist because one cannot speak of it.
While Aristotle countered the logical problem posed by Parmenides by distinguishing things that are matter and things that are space. In this scenario, space is not “nothing”, but a receptacle in which objects of matter can be placed. Therefore the void (as “nothing”) is different from space and is removed from consideration.
However understanding the difference between space and “the void” or nothing not only had relevance to the Greek philosophers but also to modern scientists because the science of “nothing” is an integral part of modern theories of our universe.
For example both Einstein’s General and Special Theories of Relativity define existence in terms of a space-time geometry. However it only defines the forces it encompasses and not what they were acting on or the material aspects of their environment. In other words it defines them in terms of existence of “nothing”.
Granted it is possible in the abstract mathematical world of Einstein’s theories to fully define an environment in terms of nothing, as he seems to have done however we do not live in that world we live in the real world in which forces can only act on physical objects.
One could also consider the other bed rock of modern science or quantum mechanics as being based on the existence of nothing because it defines a reality in which particles do not exist until an observation is made. In other words it assumes they materialize out of nothing at a specific point in space.
However if one assumes that forces are the result of an interaction between space and time as Einstein did then one also must assume that space cannot be made up of nothing because if it was one would have to also assume that forces are also made up of nothing. Therefore they could not exist because as Parmenides point out “nothing” cannot exist.
The fact that Einstein was aware of this was made evident in the speech “Aether and the theory of Relativity” he made on May 5th 1920 at the University of Leyden Germany where he indicated “The General Theory of Relativity predicts, that “space is endowed with physical qualities” “Recapitulating, we may say that according to the General Theory of Relativity space is endowed with physical qualities; in this sense, therefore, there exists something he called Aether. According to the General Theory of Relativity space without it is unthinkable; for in such space there not only would be no propagation of light, but also no possibility of existence for standards of space and time, nor therefore any space-time intervals in the physical sense.”
Yet it is difficult to form a clear picture of how the something that makes up space or the “ponderable media” Einstein mention above can interact with time because as was shown in the article “Defining what time is” Sept. 20, 2007 time is not perceived by most as matter or a “ponderable media” as Einstein called it but only as an irreversible physical, chemical, and biological change in physical space. Therefore it is difficult to understand how these abstract properties could interact with space to create the physicality of the world we live in.
However Einstein gave us the ability to solve this dilemma and develop more direct understanding of how and why space and time can interact with when he used the equation E=mc^2 and the constant velocity of light to define the geometric properties of matter in a space-time universe. This is because that provided a method of converting a unit of time associated with energy in a space-time dimension to unit of space in four *spatial* dimensions. Additionally because the velocity of light is constant he also defined a one to one quantitative correspondence between his space-time universe and one made up of four *spatial* dimensions.
This makes it possible as was shown in the article â€œDefining energyâ€ Nov 27, 2007 to derive all forms of energy and forces, including gravitational in terms of a physical displacement in a “surface” of a three-dimensional space manifold with respect to a fourth *spatial* dimension
In other words one can use Einsteinâ€™s theory to redefine forces and how they interact to create our world based exclusively on the physicality most associate with space instead of non-physical properties of time.
For example, we know from observations water in a dam exerts a force on its walls which is stationary with respect to time. Therefore it cannot be logically explained in terms of Einstein’s space-time environment because the water is not moving thought time yet it still generates force.
However this problem is irreverent if one views all forces including those that do not vary with time, such as forces created by water in a dam as was done in the article â€œDefining energyâ€ Nov 27, 2007 in terms of the physical separation of a three-dimensional volume with respect to a fourth *spatial* dimension because it shows how they can interact with geometric property of space to create them
Yet this still does not tell us what the “nothing” Aristotle told us that the objects of matter can be placed in is made of.
Einstein gave us a clue when he showed that there exists a dynamic balance between energy, mass and the surface of three-dimensional space similar to the balance that exists between the air in a balloon and its surface.
For example when the air pressure in a balloon is reduced by cooling and becomes more concentrated the magnitude of the curvature in its surface increases while heating it causes it to expand resulting in decreasing its curvature.
Similarly Einstein theories tell us if one views them in terms of their spatial instead of their time properties as was done â€œDefining energyâ€ Nov 27, 2007 when energy is concentrated in the form of mass, the energy pressure on the “surface” of three-dimensional space is reduced thereby increasing magnitude of its curvature and the strength of the gravitational field associated with it while decreasing the mass in a given volume of space by converting it to energy causes space to expand thereby decreasing its curvature and the gravitational field associated with that volume.
In other words Aristotle would say the receptacle or space which matter objects such as all of the particles known to science occupy is made up geometric properties of space which is supported by a dynamic balance between mass and energy.
Some may disagree by claiming that all of a particle’s energy/mass is concentrated in its volume and that the intervening space contains nothing.
However observations suggest otherwise.
For example we know that gravitational and electrical energy permeate space therefore we cannot say that it is empty because it does contain energy which according to Einstein also has the properties of mass or the substance he referred to in his speech mentioned earlier.
However this means that space is not composed of nothing as many of the proponents of Einstein theories believe but is made up of energy/mass.
Yet If one accepts the Aristotelian perspective that space is not nothing and the logic of the arguments presented above then Einstein does not leave us much choice but to assume â€œthe voidâ€ or the space between particles is made up of energy/mass which would according to his theories posses gravitation potential.
In other words the Aristotelian philosophy that space is not “nothing”, but a receptacle in which objects of matter (or energy) can be placed provides a basis for assuming that a portion of the gravitational potential associated with Dark matter may not be due to the existence of particles but due to the existence of space itself.
However Aristotelian belief that the “nothing” many call space is something also provides the conceptual foundation for the quantum mechanical properties of energy/mass and how particles can appear out of nothing as is assumed by many of its proponents.
For example one can by extrapolating the laws governing resonance in a three-dimensional environment, as was done in the article â€œWhy is energy/mass quantized?â€ Oct. 4, 2007 to the physicality of Aristotelian space can explain why particles seem to appear out of nothing.
Briefly it showed the four conditions required for resonance to occur in a classical environment, an object, or substance with a natural frequency, a forcing function at the same frequency as the natural frequency, the lack of a damping frequency and the ability for the substance to oscillate spatial can only occur if there is mass to oscillate.
These oscillations would be caused by an event such as the decay of a subatomic particle or the shifting of an electron in an atomic orbital. This would force the â€œsomethingâ€of space to oscillate spatially with the frequency associated with the energy of that event.
The oscillations caused by such an event would serve as forcing function allowing a resonant system or “structure” to be established space.
Therefore, these oscillations in a “surface” of a three-dimensional space manifold would meet the requirements mentioned above for the formation of a resonant system or “structure” in four-dimensional space if one extrapolated them to that environment.
Classical mechanics tells us the energy of a resonant system can only take on the discrete or quantized values associated with its fundamental or a harmonic of its fundamental frequency.
These resonant systems formed in a by space are responsible for the discrete quantized energy associated with the quantum mechanical systems.
In other words particles do not appear out of nothing but do as was shown above appear as out of the energy/mass of space or as Aristotle’s may have said the thing that is space.
This shows why Aristotle’s realization that there are “things that are matter and things that are space” opens the door to a possible explanation for some of the greatest mysteries of modern science such as the origin of Dark Matter and how particles can seemly appear out of empty space.
Copyright Jeffrey O’Callaghan 2015