Quantum mechanics, mathematical abstraction and the nature of nothing

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Discussion by: Luis_Cayetano
One theme that has sometimes cropped up on this site and others that discuss God and the origin of the universe is whether ‘nothing’, as used by the physicists, is the same as what lay persons usually have in mind (‘literal nothing’). Reading Stenger, Kraus and others, one can see that nothing isn’t as straightforward as it’s commonly thought to be. We now know, for example, that (nominally) empty space has energy, that virtual particles can appear ‘from nothing’, and that the universe itself may have ‘come from nothing’ (Stenger has a beautiful sentence in one of his books where’s he’s talking about symmetry breaking and calls the universe ‘frozen nothing’).

Well, you can see my point. Perhaps nothing is something after all. Perhaps the nothing that most people think they know is not even a state of reality that could be had, and maybe it’s a nonsensical concept to begin with (we just haven’t had our consciousness raised enough to see why).

In ecology, there are models of population dynamics that yield useful results – SO LONG AS the values are above zero. These same models also produce negative values, which are nonsensical in the real world, as there cannot be a negative number of organisms. When an actual population reaches zero, that’s the end of it; in these models, stuff is still happening beneath the x-axis, which is of no ecological interest. So these values are simply part of the model, but this part of the model does not correspond to anything real. They’re just consequences of using the model, which works, as I said, when the values are positive.

Could quantum mechanics be, in a way, like this? Quantum mechanics – and here I mean the mathematical models used therein, not the physical reality of quanta, virtual particles and the like – IMPLIES that if you take out all the matter in a given space it will still have energy; it IMPLIES that things at the minutest scales are ‘uncaused’ (whatever that could mean). But that doesn’t mean that they are. Could these be the physics version of the negative organisms – consequences of using a mathematical model that, overall, is good at predicting reality, but not necessarily corresponding to it in every respect?

It also seems to me that belief that something can come from the Lay Person’s Nothing is philosophical idealism, which is a hopelessly religious idea. What we CALL nothing is in fact something; the ‘empty space’ of the vacuum is a fabric or substance, it’s just that it lacks any structure that our best instruments can so far detect, and hence can be seen as synonymous to ‘chaos’ (which is not truly chaotic, since that would mean that things ‘just happen’, a non-explanation).

92 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting. Can’t pretend to have much grasp of this kind of thinking! Mathematical constructs infinity and its inverse are just as meaningless in the (so-called) real world I suppose. My awareness is impressed by the reality that everything physical on the human scale is almost empty space…
    Beer seems VERY real, thankfully

  2. Your question boils down to this: could the conclusion that zero-point energies and indeterminism exist be as BS as expecting a population size to be negative? The answer is no, no it bloody well couldn’t. The only reason negative population sizes arise in biology is because you’re using difference equations to avoid having to solve differential equations. “Weird” quantum phenomena aren’t artifacts of approximations; they’re inevitable consequences of the defining characteristics of quantum systems. Essentially, it all boils down to a few theorems about linear algebra, including the Cauchy-Schwarz inequality. Don’t for a moment pretend you can make everything classical again with this analogy; it’s just wrong.

  3. ””Weird” quantum phenomena aren’t artifacts of approximations; they’re inevitable consequences of the defining characteristics of quantum systems.”

    You assume that we’ve captured the ‘defining characteristics’ of quantum systems. actually, we’ve only captured a set of equations that describe numerous aspects of them so far as we can yet ascertain. 

    I’d love to know how you justify your implicit belief that the current mathematics used to describe quantum systems leave no loose ends behind such that we could be correct in claiming what the defining characteristics of quantum systems are. You gave an example of a situation where loose ends are known (but obviously so, since there cannot by definition be negative organisms) when you mentioned the use of difference equations in place of differential equations in ecological models (presumably because the latter equations are too tedious to compute). Difference equations give nonsensical results that can be ignored; why could this not apply to ‘a few theorems about linear algebra’? Is there something about linear algebra that implies that it’s the final arbiter on the subject?

    And since quantum mechanics has not yet been unified with gravity, there would seem to be a good case to be made that the mathematics used in describing the two are still wanting when it comes to comprehensively describing basic physical reality.

    ‘Don’t for a moment pretend you can make everything classical again with this analogy; it’s just wrong.’

    I’m not pretending, I’m suggesting. But that’s a bit disingenuous of me, because I do in fact call BS on the notion that something can come from Lay Person’s Nothing. That’s because i don’t subscribe to philosophical idealism, which is a necessarily nonsensical and logically bollocks enterprise.

  4. I’m not sure how the definition of nothing has much effect on my day to day life. Kind of fun to discuss, but has no bearing on the real world. Physics already has a pretty good definition of ‘nothing’ and the common sense definition of the word works just fine when talking about your drinking glass.

    Pretty much anyone invoking quantum mechanics to explain anything in the macroscopic world doesn’t know anything about quantum mechanics and  is likely a woo pedlar.

  5. I have, as one of the lay people popular theoretical physicists are trying to sell, problems with much of what they are pitching.  Not saying they are wrong- just that they are not justifying all that they posit.

    I have a rather long list of these but at or near the top is “a universe from nothing.”  Saying, as I have heard Krauss say, that positive and negative energy in the universe balance out for a net value of zero is a far cry from there being no energy.

    It is difficult to accept the “but the math works” defense at face value for those of us not fluent in chalkboard because the cosmological constant (a classic fudge) took some of the shine off that apple. If the math doesn’t match the observation, put in a bogus term to make it fit or alter reality to fit the formula as in string theory.

  6. You assume that we’ve captured the ‘defining characteristics’ of quantum systems. actually, we’ve only captured a set of equations that describe numerous aspects of them so far as we can yet ascertain. 

    You make it sound as if we saw weird things, invented equations to explain them, then noticed the equations implied zero-point energy, but we never bothered to empirically test that. Wrong. The equations predated empirical identification of all of their implications, except for the whole “atoms, the photoelectric effect and the ultraviolet catastrophe are surprising” thing from the late 19th century, and zero-point energies have been empirically seen.

     I’d love to know how you justify your implicit belief that the current mathematics used to describe quantum systems leave no loose ends behind such that we could be correct in claiming what the defining characteristics of quantum systems are. You gave an example of a situation where loose ends are known (but obviously so, since there cannot by definition be negative organisms) when you mentioned the use of difference equations in place of differential equations in ecological models (presumably because the latter equations are too tedious to compute). Difference equations give nonsensical results that can be ignored; why could this not apply to ‘a few theorems about linear algebra’? Is there something about linear algebra that implies that it’s the final arbiter on the subject? 

    (1) The differential equivalents are quite easy to solve, but biologists do as little maths as they can get away with. Frankly, I don’t know what their excuse is. The quantum case is thoroughly different. It’s not that we’re purposely using approximations; it’s that our most honest possible appraisal of the exact situation has the implications you always hear about.
    (2) Could quantum mechanics be non-linear?
    (a) Do me a favour; take an actual class in QM, or do something which imparts the same knowledge, such as reading a good textbook. Maybe then you’ll understand why the same theorems that are inescapably important in even the most esoteric version of geometry are so critical here too. It might also lead to more intelligent “what if” questions.
    (b) Although such possibilities have been investigated, every trick you use to try to move QM away from its original axiomatization just makes it even more non-classical than it was before. Zero-point energies continue to fall out of the maths; they also continue to happen experimentally. Why don’t new theories shed the most bizarre findings of old ones? Because of the correspondence principle.

     since quantum mechanics has not yet been unified with gravity, there would seem to be a good case to be made that the mathematics used in describing the two are still wanting when it comes to comprehensively describing basic physical reality. 

    You’re talking to someone who researches the quantisation of gravity! You can’t escape zero-point energies there either. Does the theory have to be complete before I can say that? Actually, no; that’s like saying doubly special relativity might get back Newton’s formula for velocity addition. Although quantum gravity will have some interesting implications, they can’t be just about anything. Everything quantum we have seen experimentally confirmed is non-negotiable. 

     I’m not pretending, I’m suggesting. 

    While you’re at it, would you like to suggest any further you-don’t-know-what-you’re-talking-about-because-of-your-approximations possibilities to the world’s scientists and mathematicians? Would you like to ignore any other empirically confirmed non-Newtonian phenomena? I hate to break it to you, but mathematicians have developed a rigorous approach to proving limits on how far approximations can mislead you. Physicists make use of these findings all the time, especially those working in a non-classical context. You might want to read about big/little O notation; it can be used to avoid every having to use an approximation ever again, if someone puts a gun to your head.

  7. Considering the fact that “nothing” is a human created concept, ‘nothing’ does not neccesarily need to be void of absolutely anything.

    Even in a quantum vacuum, you will as you say have virtual particles, and also fields.
    But why does the nature of ‘nothing’ have to be equal to our own concept of nothing as in void of anything including virtual particles and fields?

    How can we debate whether or not the nothing of for example Prof. Krauss’s ‘nothing’ (containing virtual particles and fields) HAVE to be ‘something’ rather than ‘nothing’ when we in fact don’t even know if there is such a thing as a ‘true nothingness’ in nature?

    Perhaps there is no such thing as a nothing, and that a quantum vacuum with virtual particles and fields is the most nothing ‘nothing’ there is. Perhaps that is the true nothing…

  8. Krauss gave an excellent lecture on this a while back. Can’t find the link now but worth searching on YouTube. Apparently, ‘something from nothing’ happens all the time on a sub-atomic level even in our on bodies as protons are “miraculously” formed then disappear.

    Mind-boggling stuff but it strikes at the heart of the religious apololgists’ argument that you can’t get something from nothing. In fact, you can.

  9. Quote: [...religious apololgists' argument that you can't get something from nothing...]

    The apologists still call Krauss’s nothing ‘something’. If it is not void of virtual particles and fields, it is not nothing but rather ‘something’. (according to apologists)

    I think the problem here lies in the perception of  ‘nothing’ and how we define it. The apologists demand that when saying nothing, one must mean the absence of absolutely everything, virtual particles and fields included.

    Personally I am not sure such a nothing exists at all.

  10.  

    I’m
    not sure how the definition of nothing has much effect on my day to day
    life. Kind of fun to discuss, but has no bearing on the real world.
    Physics already has a pretty good definition of ‘nothing’ and the common
    sense definition of the word works just fine when talking about your
    drinking glass.
     

    which is actually full of air!

     

    Pretty much anyone invoking quantum mechanics to explain anything in
    the macroscopic world doesn’t know anything about quantum mechanics and
     is likely a woo pedlar.
     

    well the reason you don’t fall through the floor is at least partly to do with the Pauli Exclusion Principle

  11.  

    I
    have, as one of the lay people popular theoretical physicists are
    trying to sell, problems with much of what they are pitching.  Not
    saying they are wrong- just that they are not justifying all that they
    posit.
     

    the downside (from your point of view) is that these crazy theories actually work! You’re able to post because these theories work!

    I have a rather long list of these but at or near the top is “a
    universe from nothing.”  Saying, as I have heard Krauss say, that
    positive and negative energy in the universe balance out for a net value
    of zero is a far cry from there being no energy.

    It is difficult to accept the “but the math works” defense at face
    value for those of us not fluent in chalkboard because the cosmological
    constant (a classic fudge) took some of the shine off that apple.

    a) that was General Relativity not Quantum Mechanics
    b) its been long removed
    c) Eienstein described as his greatest mistake

    though Dark Energy may revive some sort of CC

    If the
    math doesn’t match the observation, put in a bogus term to make it fit
    or alter reality to fit the formula as in string theory.

    I’m not sure that’s what String Theory is doing

  12.   Saying, as I have heard Krauss say, that positive and negative energy in the universe balance out for a net value of zero is a far cry from there being no energy. 

    Our universe apparently has 0 total energy, which means its reaching its present state from an initial one with no energy anywhere doesn’t violate energy conservation. Ergo, what’s your point?

     It is difficult to accept the “but the math works” defense at face value for those of us not fluent in chalkboard because the cosmological constant (a classic fudge) took some of the shine off that apple. If the math doesn’t match the observation, put in a bogus term to make it fit or alter reality to fit the formula as in string theory.

    That’s simply not true; the cosmological parameter was not a fudge added to a pre-existing equation that wasn’t working, but rather a quantity in the equation you can’t prove from the theory alone has to be 0, & which data shows definitely isn’t 0. It’s similar to an integration constant. The most “unusual” terms in physics equations are  necessarily there because of physical symmetries allowing for them so that no “they’re 0″ argument is available, not because a “it’s 0″ special case had a prior theoretical derivation which we abandoned due to data saying that it was wrong. The example of string theory is especially silly because it’s not yet comparable with empirical reality. If you contend there’s at least 1 occasion where a string equation was tweaked to fit the data, could you give an example?

  13. Scientific progress in investigation has this news:-

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/scie

    This year’s Nobel Prize for Physics has been
    awarded for research that could lead to a new generation of extremely
    fast computers and highly accurate clocks.

    Serge Haroche, of France, and David Wineland, of the US,
    share the prize for their work on quantum physics – in which particles
    of light and matter behave in unusual ways.

    At a scale too small to see with the naked eye, down at the
    level of atoms and photons, the normal rules of matter and light that we
    are familiar with break down and the behaviour of the smallest of
    particles is frankly bizarre – for example they can exist in different
    states at the same time. 

    Apologists have their version of the news:-

    “God-did-it-and-science-can’t-explain-all-of-it: – - -  so god-did-it” (because we have no idea what we are talking about!)

  14. To me, it seems a complete waste of time to ponder the meaning of nothingness if you don’t (fully) understand what something is; which we don’t. Nothingness, in my (admittedly uninformed) opinion is an ontological construct to insert god into the equation.

     Zero is a very useful tool for accountants but  I don’t understand it’s role in quantum mechanics other than to postulate that it is inherently unstable therefore not nothingness, as nothingness, by( laymen) definitions, has no characteristics.

  15. Vmar
    To me, it seems a complete waste of time to ponder the meaning of nothingness if you don’t (fully) understand what something is; which we don’t.

    There are no actual known examples of  “nothingness”.

    If you look at an “empty” jar, it contains air.

    If you look at interplanetary space it contains photons, Solar wind, gravity and traces of gas.

    If you look at interstellar space it contains gravity,  some radiation and traces of gas (not to mention stray lumps of matter in very eccentric orbits.

    If you look at intergalactic space, it still contains gravity, radiation, and traces of gas. 

    Nothingness, in my (admittedly uninformed) opinion is an ontological construct to insert god into the equation.

    You could put a fairly certain bet on it, that the gapologist god-did-its, have no idea about the above and no idea what “nothing” is! God-did-it, is as always, a substitute for understanding or even attempts at understanding.

  16. I try to follow and vaguely understand these experiments and theories in cosmic and quantum physics.

    These posts, comments, and recent Lawrence Krauss videos, are very challenging to comprehend. 

    I’m just a mechanical engineer, and it has become much clearer that I don’t know nothing.  8-)

  17. I would agree with your one point that the Lay Person’s Nothingness as in the absence of everything is not a real phenomenon in nature – it’s just as imaginary a concept as an omnipotent being.  We’ve just gotten so used to thinking of empty space as devoid of everything that it taints our analysis of the real world.

    It seems that quantum vacuum is the “natural” state of existence and that a universe containing space and time and causation is a kind of aberration.  It’s probably also true that we’ve gotten so used to thinking about the universe having a beginning that it makes it harder for us to think of a state of existence which just “is” and doesn’t require classical laws or a beginning or an end.

  18. Hopefully one of the proper physicists on here will correct me if I’m wrong. In my (very) limited understanding of quantum field theory, there are two “nothings”. One is the quantum vacuum (usually denoted by |0> ), the other is the integer zero: 0. The distinction between the two is the same as the distinction between a zero vector (say (0,0,0) in normal space) and the integer zero.

    Integer zero is used frequently in QFT, but only as a means to remove unwanted factors in equations. Once a factor is reduced to the integer zero, no amount of quantum uncertainty will ever change it back into “something” again.

    The quantum vacuum, is different. It can be acted upon by physical fields to create particles.

    I think that when Krauss refers to “nothing” he is referring to the quantum vacuum, |0>,  rather than the integer zero, 0, whereas most of us probably think of the integer zero as being what we think of as nothing.

  19. To the quantum scientist, ordinary intuition is simply broken.  It can’t simulate what happens on the scale of the very small. It is though we are both blind physically, and blind in the ability to imagine. So they use math and check if macroscopic measurements of the microscopic fit with the math.  For them, the reality is the math, not some mental picture. 

    What you are doing is trying to equate your world-of-watermelons scale notion of “nothing” onto the quantum world.  It won’t fit.  “Nothing” in the quantum sense is more like an airy froth.

  20. The vacuum |0> is not actually a 0 vector; the 0 label used references its eigenvalue under a number operator but, because |0> is a state vector, its length is actually 1. For any annihilation operator a and associated number operator N, a|0> and N|0> both really are the 0 vector. Zero-point energies result from the fact that <0|H|0> is nonzero (H being the Hamiltonian, essentially the total energy), which in turn occurs because, while H is linear in N, it isn’t proportional to N. For example, for a bosonic harmonic oscillator H is proportional to N+1/2.

  21. “When an actual population reaches zero, that’s the end of it; in these models, stuff is still happening beneath the x-axis”
    Ah, so that’s how complex organisms, like God, can arise from nothing––I mean from zero.

  22. Thanks Jos. But I’m not at all convinced, nor am I intimidated one iota.

    Firstly, there was nothing in your response that would lead me to think that quantum mechanical models capture the ontological qualities of the system instead of accurately gauging the probabilities of microevents (which I acknowledge they do extremely well). It sounds too much like you’re saying that the microworld is ‘pure probability’. This is gibberish, and philosophical idealist gibberish at that. I accept that physicists studying these things leave their intuition at the door and just go with the flow (after all, quantum mechanical models work). But good luck trying to convince anyone with a genuine philosophical materialist bent that numbers are actually things in the world (if this is what you mean to imply). If you admit that they’re not, and that they’re simply there to help us structure our view of the world and to compute its behaviour, then there is, necessarily, more to it than ‘pure probability’. If statements like ‘For them, the reality is the math, not some mental picture’ (as another commenter said) are accurate descriptions of the way that most physicists studying quantum phenomena think, then theoretical physics is in a sorry state indeed.

    When people say that the wave-particle duality implies that photons ARE particles AND waves, rather than that photons exhibit PROPERTIES of particles and waves, I know that they’re talking nonsense. Likewise when someone tells me that cats can be both dead and alive, or that an object’s speed OR its position are ‘definitive’, but not both, or that an object can be in two places ‘at the same time’, I know that they’re going wild with something reminiscent of the aforementioned and extremely obnoxious notion beloved of many maths teachers that numbers ‘exist in nature’. Such conceptions of the world make it hard to believe that a lot of these physicists are genuine materialists, since they seem to think that their equations ARE the reality and that physical reality leaps out of…matrices? Algebra? Is there REALLY no difference between mathematical abstractions and sub-atomic events? I implore you not to answer ‘well, that’s what the evidence shows’.

    There’s a lot of quantum woo-hoo out there, of The Secret variety. But how much less woo-hooish are the claims of those who literally believe that a cat can be both dead and alive at the same time? Really, what on Earth are you talking about?

    In short: quantum mechanical models are largely descriptions, not explanations, of microevents. And that’s fine.

  23. There was nothing that would lead me to think quantum mechanical models capture the ontological qualities of the system instead of accurately gauging the probabilities of microevents

    What else is there to ontology?

    It sounds like you’re saying the microworld is ‘pure probability’. Good luck trying to convince anyone numbers are actually things in the world. If you admit they’re not there is more to it than ‘pure probability’. If statements like ‘For them, the reality is the math, not some
    mental picture’ (as another commenter said) are accurate descriptions of the way that most physicists studying quantum phenomena think, then theoretical physics is in a sorry state indeed.

    It is a theorem, which I can’t prove here but saw discussed in Oxford, that any world which has a certain set of relational properties will admit a map from its components to numbers which allows maths to work on it regardless of the ontological status of mathematical objects. Suppose an event has probability 0.37; whether or that there is such a thing as 0.37 “out there”, one can translate “P(A)=0.37” into terms which do not require us to postulate any ontologically controversial statuses for anything. In any case, this is tangential to the original discussion, which was not about why maths works in science, but whether zero-point energies could be an inaccurate prediction born of careless approximations. Not only do we understand our approximations well enough to know that’s impossible, but such energies are empirically known.

    When people say wave-particle duality implies that photons ARE particles AND waves, rather than that photons exhibit PROPERTIES of particles and waves, I know that they’re talking nonsense.

    And have I said anything of that kind? I too know something is awry when I hear people say things like that, in the sense that I know they can’t have studied the maths. I know you can’t have, either; indeed, that’s why you have raised the speculative questions you did. Definitions are quite careless, but let’s consider one example. If particles require “definite”
    position and waves require “definite” wavenumber, we know photons are never particles or waves. [“Particle” physicists call them “particles” because, in the modern era, we need to call them something; but as any expert on quantum field theory can tell you, “particles” are in any case not fundamental, since some states of fields don’t have definite or invariant particle numbers.] Again, this is a tangent.

    When someone tells me that cats can be both dead and alive, or that an object’s speed OR its mass are ‘definitive’, but not both, or that an object can be in two places ‘at the same time’, I know they’re going wild with something reminiscent of the aforementioned notion numbers ‘exist in nature’.

    On the contrary; such comments prove how little of the maths they know. “Both X and Y” statements are wrong because general superpositions aren’t eigenstates. (I’ve no idea where you got speed vs mass from; I think you meant to compare momentum with position.) Mistakes maths shows to be mistakes can hardly be blamed on taking maths too seriously.

    Such conceptions of the world make it hard to believe that a lot of these physicists are genuine materialists, since they seem to think that their equations ARE the reality and that physical reality leaps out of…matrices? Algebra? Is there REALLY no difference between mathematical abstractions and sub-atomic events? I implore you not to answer ‘well, that’s what the evidence shows’.

    Putting aside the question of why evidence shouldn’t be pertinent here, and putting aside the point I made earlier that the ontological status of mathematical objects need not be decided in this debate, I want to know what specific examples of “maths says X, but I don’t believe X” you have in mind, and why you don’t believe X. Clearly it’s not because the evidence is against X; au contraire – you’ve told me not to go there. The reason seems to boil down to, “it sounds too ridiculous”. You may feel my “I want to know specific examples” request is silly, due to your having given such examples above already. However, the thing about those examples, as I’ve mentioned, is that only a poor understanding of the maths can lead anyone to thing the ridiculous versions of these ideas are actually valid. I am of the view that maths is the only way to understand these things, and that people get unnecessarily silly versions of these things into their heads because they try to wing it maths-free. This thread has bolstered my view; and I suspect that, if you took a maths-rich course in QM, the real claims within it would strike
    you as a lot more sensible than you would expect going in.

    How much less wooish are the claims of those who literally believe that a cat can be both dead and alive at the same time? Really, what on Earth are you talking about?

    Again, that’s not how superposition works.

    Quantum models are largely descriptions, not explanations, of microevents

    Putting aside what that distinction means, or why it matters here, my understanding was you don’t think the models are all that good as descriptions, because you thought things like zero-point energies were invalid inferences from them. And if those aren’t microevent issues, I don’t know what is.

  24. First let me answer Jos- Of course I know the CC came from
    Einstein.  But my understanding is that
    he considered his greatest mistake to be assuming the universe was static- not
    the CC.  I also understood (Krauss) that
    his original math predicted a collapsing universe but since that didn’t match
    his mistaken observation of a static universe, he plugged in the CC as a force
    to counteract gravity.  If that’s not a
    fudge, I’d be hard pressed to name one.

    Secondly, I did not suggest any of the String Theory math
    was fudged- just the opposite.  AE
    changed the math to match his reality; Stringers came up with a fudged reality
    to match the unchanged math.

    The license theoretical physicists are abusing here though
    is not the math but the language. 
    Everybody on the planet has, regardless of native tongue, a pretty good
    idea of what “nothing” means and it bears no relation to the nothing espoused
    by these theoreticals.

    These physicists fed the apologist crowd raw meat with “something
    from nothing” and it angered me a bit at the time because there was no need to
    propose it.  And now I find they are
    talking about a kind of nothing unfamiliar to the rest of humanity and I’m a
    little angrier.

    I have an idea why they did it and would love for it to be
    refuted because I am here to learn.  I
    think if they have to admit there was something in their nothing, be it energy,
    virtual particles, fabrics or waves, they’d have to backtrack on other dearly
    held beliefs- like time starting with the Big Bang, for instance.

    Hawking had it right many years ago when he said (quoting
    from memory here- so it will not be perfect), “Since there is no way of seeing
    or measuring anything before the BB, you might as well say time began with the
    BB.”  Somehow we went from having no way
    to tell and phrases like “you might as well say” to “Yep, it started from
    nothing and there was nothing before” which, like belief in the gods no one
    here accepts, is stating as fact something unknowable and not supported by
    evidence.

    Back to the “stringers” for a sec, then I’m done for now
    (though I did say, I have a long list of gripes).  If something is really, really small and all
    curled up, it does not fit any definition of “dimensions” I have ever
    heard.  This does not mean they are
    wrong.  It does mean they’ll never sell
    it. 

  25. >>Personally I am not sure such a nothing exists at all.

    I don’t know much physics, but personally I’m wondering even if Krauss’s “nothing” can exist at all. That is, space empty of matter and radiation. I’ve read the original Einstein paper about SR(on the electrodynamics of moving bodies), and, before proceeding with his results, he does some quite rigorous definitions of what he means when he says ‘time’, ‘space’, ‘distance’, ‘simultaneous’ and such, and he always connects those notions with a way of measuring them from the appropriate frame of reference, not giving them some ‘ontological’ absolute value, as if space is an eternal 3D grid which just waits to be filled with matter, but can exist without it. 

    What kind of “space” is a space without particles and radiation, how is “distance” or “position” defined in that? I’m not talking about how there aren’t any sentient beings around to do the measurements, there aren’t any on Pluto either, I’m saying there is logically no way for a measurement to be done even as a thought experiment or a way for ‘distance’ or ‘time interval’ to be defined. What am I missing?

  26. his original math predicted a collapsing universe but since that didn’t match his mistaken observation of a static universe, he plugged in the CC as a force to counteract gravity.  If that’s not a fudge, I’d be hard pressed to name one.

    The CC has to be admitted in any theory, even if its value is expected to be 0. Einstein tried a CC=0 model first, realised it didn’t have the properties he sought, then saw if he could get sought properties with a different value of the CC. His error was his choice of properties, but there never was a time when anyone thought, “let’s bung in an extra term where we’d hitherto derived a there-won’t-be-one conclusion, because hang logic!”, because no such derivation had been found, nor is it possible.

    Stringers came up with a fudged reality to match the unchanged math.

    Can you give an example of a provably wrong claim about reality string theorists have embraced because their maths mandated it? Or by “fudged” do you just mean “too counter-intuitive for me to handle”? If your proof some such claim is wrong relies on logic, bear in mind (a) QM’s critics often try that, little realising they misunderstand both what QM says and the breadth of nonclassical logic and (b) if that charge stuck, it would be an example of where string theory or a version thereof was inconsistent, and string theorists have always immediately responded to such issues by admitting that theory cannot survive in its current form.

    The license theoretical physicists are abusing here though is not the math but the language. Everybody on the planet has, regardless of native tongue, a pretty good idea of what “nothing” means and it bears no relation to the nothing espoused by these theoreticals

    Laypeople with no training in physics also think they know what “down” means, but it turns out our downs aren’t parallel. Why think lay definitions semantically trump physicists’ informed choice of terminology when it comes to the subatomic structure of the vacuum when the Earth’s being round escapes common sense?

    If they have to admit there was something in their nothing, be it energy, virtual particles, fabrics or waves, they’d have to backtrack on other dearly held beliefs- like time starting with the Big Bang, for instance.

    Only if time has to predate any other candidate starting point. Why does it? Causal dynamical triangulation is one disagreeing model, so it’s not logically necessary.

    Somehow we went to “it started from nothing and there was nothing before”

    Are you sure he said that is so, rather than simply that it may be? I’ve heard him say “what predated the Big Bang?” may be as silly “What’s North of the North Pole?”, but I’ve not heard him get more definite than that. I’d like a quotation please, with a source.

    If something is really, really small and all curled up, it does not fit any definition of “dimensions” I have ever heard.  This does not mean they are wrong.  It does mean they’ll never sell it.

    Oh, so now S-type dimensions are no good to you; dimensions have to be R-type? Putting aside that a transformation can rewrite the non-Euclidean geometry in a manner that only has unbounded coordinates, you have to realise your complaint boils down to, “I don’t want to let a space whose points are specifiable with n scalars count as nD if fewer than n of them are unbounded.” How many dimensions does the surface of a torus have? On your definition, 0, 1 or 2 depending on the coordinates used; on the definition which mathematicians use, 2 regardless of the coordinates used. That objectivity is why they prefer that definition.

  27. To me, nothing means nothing. If you have anything at all
    such as energy, or some kind of “as-yet” undetected “fabric of space” then it no
    longer qualifies as nothing. If you add so much as the sweat from a subatomic
    particle then again, it is no longer “nothing.” If there is anything that can be
    viewed, poke, prodded, measured, etc, then it is “something,” even if we do not
    have the tools to examine it. Perhaps it is time to redefine the vacuum of space
    as “almost nothing.” But of course that is a relative term which can also be
    debated.

  28. And what about superpositions of multiple has-something states which therefore don’t have any definite amount of anything? As I mentioned before, sometimes the particle number is ill-defined. Not only can a particle lack definite position; the number of particles can itself not be definite. 

    Even worse for your “it’s either nothing or it isn’t” attitude, in cases where the number of particles is definite for one reference frame, it may still not be invariant, i.e. that answer may not be true across all reference frames. This is the origin of what’s known as an Unruh effect. A vacuum at absolute zero would be perceived by anyone accelerating through it as having a non-zero temperature due to the occasional photon present, whereas to the non-accelerating observer there  are no such photons present. So, if some reference frames say there’s nothing there but others don’t, is it nothing or not? 

    One more question, again based on my previous posts:  given that “a direction is either down or it’s not, so don’t you dare challenge my idea of when a direction counts as down” is a scientifically refuted stance, so that semantics alone can’t let you “win” in a discussion about how reality actually works, why should we expect the nothing-something discussion to be different?

  29. The concept of absolute nothing, devoid even of abstract entities touted by apologists isn’t a meaningful concept. Mathematics and logic just “are”. So already they are on shaky ground. These abstract concepts don’t need to be created. We don’t know what exactly is reality and what connection it has with abstract concepts.

    It seems from what I’ve read about QT that in some sense every possible history has an influence on the probability of an observation. Maybe in some sense every logically possible history of a universe exists in the same way that every mathematical theorum, logical construct in some sense exists.

  30. ”What else is there to ontology?”
    In the human field of ontology, perhaps nothing. But if we presume (as we must if we are philosophical materialists) that there is stuff out there in the universe that exists independently of our observations of it, it would seem to be the case that the probabilities of microevents DON’T describe the full ontology of a system in the sense of ‘the stuff that actually exists’. Mathematical theorems are only ever going to uncover more maths – that is, descriptions of behaviour that can be quantified.

    ”Suppose an event has probability 0.37; whether or that there is such a
    thing as 0.37 “out there”, one can translate “P(A)=0.37” into terms
    which do not require us to postulate any ontologically controversial
    statuses for anything.”

    Certainly not if we desist from making statements like ‘the sub-atomic world is fundamentally probabilistic’. Probabilities are estimations of the average number of times that events happen in the context of things interacting with each other. How can we separate all the clutter of things and remove the variation therein to isolate ‘single events’ (if there are such things). And how do we know that those single events aren’t themselves the surface of events somewhere beneath that surface? I have neither the eloquence nor the vocabulary to express what I really mean here, but I hope some of it is being conveyed.

    ”And have I said anything of that kind?”

    Well good.

    ”On the contrary; such comments prove how little of the maths they know.”

    Alright, so what are we left with? ‘Uncaused’ events (correct me if that’s wrong) that have a ‘certain probability’ of happening? These you’re describing as fundamental features of existence, rather than the maths.

    ”(I’ve no idea where you got speed vs mass from; I think you meant to compare momentum with position.)”

    Typo.

  31. If we presume (as we must if we are philosophical materialists) that there is stuff out there in the universe that exists independently of our observations of it, it would seem to be the case that the probabilities of microevents DON’T describe the full ontology of a system in the sense of ‘the stuff that actually exists’. Mathematical theorems are only ever going to uncover more maths – that is, descriptions of behaviour that can be quantified.

    Firstly, what makes you think that there’s anything unquantifiable? Secondly, you are again criticising a popular straw man of quantum theory rather than the theory itself, for it is not people’s observations which are held to alter things, but processes on which observations are contingent, such as interactions with photons. Bear in mind also that introductory courses early in undergraduate degrees rely on the fact that experiments use measuring equipment made of extremely large number of particles to justify an approximation wherein the equipment is classical and that which it espies is quantum, and this ontologically misleads students, but not the experts themselves. The full theory, which treats “observing” and “observed” items as all one system with an overall state vector, is mathematically well-developed and is familiar to the right grad students. Incidentally, to dot all the Is & cross the Ts relies also on relativity. But all quantum phenomena bar entanglement have classical analogues, so don’t imagine it is all that bizarre; those who think QM is weird tend to be ignorant of the mathematical details of not only QM, but also CM.

    Not if we desist from making statements like ‘the sub-atomic world is fundamentally probabilistic’. Probabilities are estimations of the average number of times that events happen in the context of things interacting with each other. How can we separate all the clutter of things and remove the variation therein to isolate ‘single events’ (if there are such things). And how do we know that those single events aren’t themselves the surface of events somewhere beneath that surface? I have neither the eloquence nor the vocabulary to express what I really mean here, but I hope some of it is being conveyed.

    Well it isn’t. Quantum models predict probabilities of observable events, so we can test its probabilistic claims. Admittedly they are only statistically rather than certainly refutable, but that’s good enough in practice. And your “probabilities are” statement is just one of several interpretations of probabilities, and it is not one of ontological pertinence in quantum theories. Indeed, probability is ontologically more fundamental in quantum field theory than are particles themselves. It can achieve this because its satisfaction of the continuity equation makes it behave like an incompressible fluid.

    So what are we left with? ‘Uncaused’ events that have a ‘certain probability’ of happening? These you’re describing as fundamental features of existence, rather than the maths.

    In saying that, do you mean to imply the lack of causes is not implied by the maths; in other words, that the maths does not preclude everything being caused? You may not agree a radioactive atom’s decay is uncaused, but any hypothetical cause of its decay would have to rely on 1 or more examples of what are called hidden variables. You would therefore benefit from reading about Bell’s theorem, which doesn’t allow$ the empirically correct predictions of QM to be correctly obtained by any example of such a fully causal theory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B… ($ There is one way around this, which requires noncommutative geometry (although Wikipedia doesn’t discuss the unique implications of this possibility on either the Bell’s theorem page or the noncommutative geometry page). While NCG could be true, you might find it even weirder than QM; it is certainly highly speculative, unlike the empirically successful QM.) Perhaps after reading that you’ll have a clearer idea of what it is you wish to contend or question; theorems constrain our options somewhat, by showing some combinations of assumptions are inconsistent.

  32. I would define nothing as the absence of everything. I think the only place where nothing exists is the emptyness that our universe is expanding into. Within our universe, there is always something.

  33. I am probably the most ‘layman’ of all here, and I neither subscribe to BB theory, nor a God Delusion, simply because there is insufficient evidence for both. As interested as I am in exploring the unknown through philosophy and science, at the end of the day, I only care if my PC works, or my eggs are fresh and healthy.

    The learned scientist may not care to spend the time to explain his complex theory to me, but if he wants to stay relevant (to people like me), he must furnish tangible results that I can make use of. Be it in the shape of a microwave, prediction of damaging solar winds, early discovery of a dangerous asteroid.

    On the other hand, physicists positing that something can come from nothing does undermine my trust of the scientific method, because that theory sounds a little too familiar for my liking. Also positing that time and space began at the inception of the BB sounds ridiculous to me, again, straining credulity in what has always seemed a superior method of examining what is and isn’t.

    Are we expected to start believing in scientific theories because, despite it’s shortcomings, they are the ‘best fit’ models? When did we become ashamed to say, “well, I don’t know, but I’m working on it!” Is science becoming the new religion? If it is, I’ll avoid it just like I avoid all the rest.

  34. Juiceman,

    I agree with you that scientist and particularly quantum physicist and cosmologist need the make an effort to explain their theories to the laymen. I actually think they for the most part they do a pretty good job. After all, they want to sell books and get government funding for their projects.

    Sometimes it is just hard and sometimes you just get a confusing metaphor. for example I think Shroeder’s god damned cat has created more confusion that help but, well, that’s just me.

    On the other hand, laymen also need to understand That what we feel and think intuitively is a filtered through our own highly unreliable perceptions and senses. Hell, for all we know, none of it is what we (scientist and laymen) think it is. But in the end, there must be an agreed method to our inquiry and rationalism which comes up with theories that predict outcomes must be held supperior to fairy tales that makes you feel good and preachers rich.

    In the end, I think the only logical position to take is that of agnosticism, but in the meantime, we do need to root out some of the sillier thinking.

  35. Luis, you have articulated quite well my thoughts on this very issue! One paper I think is on the mark about this is: “Why there is something rather than nothing, The finite, infinite and eternal” written by Peter Lynds. (I am aware that Lynds raises eyebrows within the physics community for some of his ideas but in this case I think that he is on the ball!)
    Take a look, http://goo.gl/1yhDR

  36.   juiceman1_2000 -  On the other hand, physicists positing that something can come from nothing does undermine my trust of the scientific method,

    Making observable but provisional claims, subject to up-dating in the light of new information, IS the scientific method.

    It is already known that matter and antimatter cancel each other out when they collide. 
    It is the complexities of changes of state between matter and forms of energy which is unclear, but is work in progress. 

    because that theory sounds a little too familiar for my liking. 

    Unlike religions, science does not claim to get everything right at the first try.

    Much confusion arises from confusion between accurately well confirmed (near-factual) scientific theories (Like Newton), and speculative mathematical models which try to explain observations on the frontiers of knowledge. 

    Also positing that time and space began at the inception of the BB sounds ridiculous to me, again, straining credulity in what has always seemed a superior method of examining what is and isn’t.

    Physicists have already shown experimentally in confirming the theory of relativity that the pace of the passage of time varies with velocity, and rapidly varies as the speed of light is approached. 
    Is it so difficult to understand that it could slow to a stop or near stop? 

    The inside of a black-hole is one or more  whole new states of matter and energy.

  37. I [don't] subscribe to BB theory  because there is insufficient evidence for [it]  

    Do you mean the Big Bang? If so, more on that below.

    I only care if my PC works, or my eggs are fresh and healthy. 

    So do you disbelieve all science that doesn’t address that? Climate change, atomic theory, astronomy, all down the drain for you, huh?

     The scientist  must furnish tangible results that I can make use of 

    Tangible results that are right support a hypothesis whether or not they are “useful”.

    Physicists positing that something can come from nothing does undermine my trust of the scientific method, because that theory sounds a little too familiar for my liking. 

    Firstly, the religious hypotheses to which you clearly allude say something came from a god, not nothing. Secondly, that something comes from nothing is not merely posited; it’s an empirical fact, at least in some contexts. Look at the Casimir effect. Thirdly, each thing is either eternal, comes from nothing if you trace the causes back far enough or has infinitely many causal precursors; what makes you so sure the second option never occurs? Responsible scientists have to look at all models’ predictions, not just the ones we philosophically like.

     Positing that time and space began at the inception of the BB sounds ridiculous to me, again, straining credulity in what has always seemed a superior method of examining what is and isn’t. 

    Time beginning in the Big Bang makes mathematical sense. It may not be what happened, but every scientist admits that. M-theory, which has other things to recommend it, implies the Big Bang was a caused event in an 11-dimensional eternal universe. Does that idea sit better with you? Of course, whether it does or not isn’t what really matters.

     Are we expected to start believing in scientific theories because they are the ‘best fit’ models? When did we become ashamed to say, “well, I don’t know, but I’m working on it!” 

    Now let’s review the Big Bang, shall we? Certainly, the best fit may still be bad, but here it’s an excellent one. The properties of CMB radiation are very accurately predicted from the Big Bang model; in fact, there’s no better example in scientific history of a theory fitting the data. Hence this XKCD comic: http://xkcd.com/54/ It also very accurately predicts the ratios of primordial isotopes, and the ratio of photons, protons and neutrons. And it’s the only way to explain Hubble’s law given the empirically well-established theory of general relativity. And multiple methods of estimating how long ago the Big Bang happened agree with each other, and the oldest observable stars and galaxies are slightly younger than that. Don’t pretend it’s just a vague idea with only a couple of data points to back it up.

  38. Not all things are relative. Einstein regretted the name “theory of relativity” because, like its Galilean predecessor, it concludes some things are absolute (nowadays we say “invariant”) and others are relative, but the theories differed on which things. Most famously, Einstein’s physics shows c is absolute. Nowadays much work in physics concerns how to describe as much as possible in terms of invariants (invariant quantities); this is called invariant mechanics.

  39. So how would you ever find out if “nothing” actually exists? Can it ever be detected in any way? If yes, how? If no, is the question “Can something come out of nothing” a meaningful question at all? Could this question ever be answered?

  40.  Nothing in physics would be the lowest state of existence possible without actually being “Nothing” in the literal context. In physics, nothing would be the absence of particles, galaxies, stars, planets, me, or you ect. However, nothing in the literal context can not exist as it’s literally impossible as a self-refutation.. Hence, if nothing existed, not even nothing would exist. So the best way I can describe origins here is that Existence itself is the origin of all that exists, and that everything is an emergent property of existence to which is the totality of causality and reality.  Existence is thus seen as self-generating infinite system where no physical boundaries can exist simply due to the fact that nothing can not exist to represent a boundary to the system, or to existence itself.  Hence, existence simply exists because non-existence can not be a person, place, object, substance, or thing. And nothing and non-existence are synonymous here. 

    Also, in modern information science, information and energy are considered two sides of the same coin as both substance and value. And what is interesting about this is that it shows why consciousness for example can’t exist without cause.. As in it wouldn’t be possible without information, and the inertia of information (time).. And no time would be a static state with no inertia of information, and that state would be impossible to support a conscious state, or cognitive systems and dynamics. So to demonstrate this, we can discuss the following:

    Note: This is where this post gets long.., so it’s up to you if you want to continue on reading my reply here..

    there are 3 fundamental laws that govern cause and effect, information, and energy. These same 3 laws, principles, or attributes govern consciousness, morals, ethics, laws, emotions, feelings, or any Complex Adaptive system with feedback. So what are they? * POSITIVE * NEGATIVE * NEUTRAL

    These are not only the base laws of existence, they are the
    attributes to everything, and everything we know of is made of energy. thus
    it’s considered under information theory and science that Energy =/=
    information as both substance and value (as previously noted above).
    Thus the 3 fundamental properties, attributes, and laws are the
    cause of all causation. Information and energy are thus simply stated
    as “Cause”.

    There can only ever seemingly be a positive, negative, or neutral;

    Action Reaction Process Mathematical equation Answer Choice Decision Intent Purpose Moral Ethic Emotion Feeling Piece of information State Function Ability Response System Feedback Opinion Phenomenon Condition Ability Power Electric Charge Selection Adaptation Mutation Transformation Position Point of view Observation Sensation Perception Or the relativity of anything above

    And we can simply translate that in the following:

    * Conscious Mechanical Self-Organization

    Abstract quote: ” The evolution of consciousness is seen in the context of energy
    driven evolution in general, where energy and information are understood
    as two sides of the same coin. From this perspective consciousness
    is viewed as an ecological system in which streams of cognitive,
    perceptual, and emotional information form a rich complex of
    interactions, analogous to the interactive metabolism of a living cell.
    The result is an organic, self-generating, or autopoietic, system,
    continuously in the act of creating itself. Evidence suggests that this
    process is chaotic, or at least chaotic-like, and capable of
    assuming a number of distinct states best understood as chaotic
    attractors. “The mechanisms discussed are the only one’s possible to explain why
    everything is here. But as before, I like to simplify even further! So
    lets make it even easier to understand here:

    E = Existence = Energy = information = force = cause = emergent
    properties = conscious entities, you, me, other “I AMS”, the stars, and
    everything else.

    Or:

    E = Existence
    E = Energy
    E = Everywhere
    E = Emergence or Emerging properties
    E = MC^2
    E = EvolutionE = EverythingE = EveryoneE = Me to
    And if you like, E = easy to understand without having to go into Everything E can do, or how E does Everything it can do. E is thus the only Established and Empirically supported truth we have thus far. E Enables us to do the things we do, and be who we are. And without E there is nothing, no Existence, no me, no you, not anything. And well, it’s good to know that E exists simply because nothing can’t. It’s good to know that E can neither be created nor destroyed. This means we will Exist in some form or another regardless of what happens after death. E is even every letter in the alphabet since it is the Energy that makes up the very Essence of Every letter.
    E Explains itself and is self-Explanatory.. It’s also Eternal, and gives us the ability to Even have Emotion..

    So to make it as simple as possible, I only require one letter to
    understand reality and why we are all essentially here. It’s even two
    letters less than “GOD”, and E even comes before “I”..literally! :)

    It’s simply “E”

    And E even makes up every letter of the alphabet even if it’s not in
    English simply because it is the essence value of any and all letters. In terms of science, We fundamentally know the basic answer already, we just don’t know how energy works entirely.

    And yes I said E comes before “I”, and here is why (copy pasting previous posts of mine) :

    We kind of need a more basic understanding of all that don’t we?
    Well, lets provide some basic understanding of information theory and information science  here:

    Links:

    http://www.wordiq.com/definiti
    http://www.wordiq.com/definiti
    http://www.wordiq.com/definiti
    http://www.wordiq.com/definiti
    http://www.wordiq.com/definiti
    http://www.wordiq.com/definiti
    http://www.wordiq.com/definiti
    http://www.wordiq.com/definiti
    http://www.wordiq.com/definiti
    http://www.wordiq.com/definiti
    http://www.wordiq.com/definiti
    http://www.wordiq.com/definiti

    Thus we can get a deeper understanding of information science in
    relation to cognitive systems as you can reference these abstracts from
    the above provided links:Quote:

    ” Information theory is closely associated with a collection of pure
    and applied disciplines that have been investigated and reduced to
    engineering practice under a variety of rubrics throughout the world
    over the past half century or more: adaptive systems, anticipatory systems, artificial intelligence, complex systems, complexity science, cybernetics, informatics, machine learning, along with systems sciences
    of many descriptions. Information theory is a broad and deep
    mathematical theory, with equally broad and deep applications, amongst
    which is the vital field of coding theory “

    This article largely discusses complex systems
    as a subject of information and the attempts to emulate physical
    complex systems with emergent properties. For other scientific and
    professional disciplines addressing complexity in their fields, see the
    complex systems article and references below:

    Quote:

    ” A complex system is a system composed of
    interconnected parts that as a whole exhibit one or more properties
    (behavior among the possible properties) not obvious from the
    properties of the individual parts.[1] A system’s complexity may be of one of two forms: disorganized complexity and organized complexity.[2]
    In essence, disorganized complexity is a matter of a very large
    number of parts, and organized complexity is a matter of the subject
    system (quite possibly with only a limited number of parts) exhibiting
    emergent properties.
    Examples of complex systems for which complexity models have been
    developed include ant colonies, human economies and social structures,
    climate, nervous systems, cells and living things, including human
    beings, as well as modern energy or telecommunication infrastructures.
    Indeed, many systems of interest to humans are complex systems.
    Complex systems are studied by many areas of natural science, mathematics, and social science. Fields that specialize in the interdisciplinary study of complex systems include systems theory, complexity theory, systems ecology, and cybernetics.
    The term adaptation arises mainly in the biological scope as a
    trial to study the relationship between the characteristics (anatomic
    structure, physiological processes or behavior) of living beings and
    their environments. Currently, in biology,
    the term adaptation has a clear and concise meaning: a biological
    adaptation is an anatomic structure, a physiological process or a
    behavior’s trait of an organism that has been selected by the natural evolution
    in such a way that this characteristic increase the probability of
    reproduction of an organism. An adaptive system is a set of
    interacting or interdependent entities, real or abstract, forming an
    integrated whole that together are able to respond to environmental
    changes or changes in the interacting parts. Feedback loops represent a
    key feature of adaptive systems, allowing the response to changes;
    examples of adaptive systems include: natural ecosystems, individual
    organisms, human communities, human organizations, and human families.
    Some artificial systems can be adaptive as well; for instance,
    robots employ control systems that utilize feedback loops to sense new conditions in their environment and adapt accordingly “

    Complex adaptive information systems are applicable to all of the following as well:

    Agent-based model
    Biological organisation
    Complex (disambiguation)
    Complexity (disambiguation)
    Complex network
    Dissipative system
    Fractals
    Innovation butterfly
    Mixed Reality
    System equivalence
    Systems theory
    2 Modern Neuroscience
    2.1 Molecular and cellular neuroscience
    2.2 Neural circuits and systems
    2.3 Cognitive and behavioral neuroscience

  41. If nothing existed, not even nothing would exist.

    You’re mixing up “There exists an x: x = nothing” with “There does not exist an x: x = x”.

    Existence a system where no physical boundaries can exist

    Are you denying physical laws? Such laws, if true, prevent other things from existing; either way, you deny the existence of something, though not of everything. This is not an issue that can be properly discussed a priori.

    There are 3 fundamental laws … positive, negative, neutral

    Those aren’t laws; they’re just types of quantity.

    These are not only the base laws of existence, they are the  attributes to everything

    What about complex numbers?

    Energy =/= information

    Earlier you said they were equivalent.

    E is thus the only Established and Empirically supported truth we have thus far.

    Because you know a lot of technical terms in English beginning with an E? Where does information fit into that? Also, why did you forget exergy?

    E makes up every letter because it is the essence value

    Poe?

  42. You seem to be confusing mathematical descriptions with the physical phenomena they describe.

    @rdfrs-d830c8ef85d7688b33b09d3e57b2cc98:disqus  –

       there are 3 fundamental laws that govern cause and effect, information, and energy. … ..
    These are not only the base laws of existence, they are the  attributes to everything

    @JosGibbons:disqus
    Those aren’t laws; they’re just types of quantity.

     

     

    The laws governing matter/ energy are the laws of thermodynamics.

  43. A very valid point. It would be impossible to demonstrate that a ‘nothing exists at all’, one could only demonstrate that ‘some thing’ doesn’t exist ‘here.’

    There is the suggestion that “because you don’t understand what nothing means you can’t understand how something comes from nothing.” I think this is at best disingenuous, at worse pompous, especially when it was an explanation offered to laymen. I’m pretty sure we all understand what nothing means, and if this is some special kind of nothing, then that should be clearly stated, which would make it obvious that physicists don’t really mean something came from nothing.

    I find all this esoteric talk about the mathematics proving it, distasteful. If physics is supposed to reflect the real world, then some tangible proof of a theory should be offered, unless it’s just a ‘working model’ theory. In which case, physicists should simply, and quite clearly state “we are not sure, but we’re working on it,” instead of offering ‘pompous’ half-truths.

    When the goal of science is the find answers, something coming from nothing, is a failure.

  44. Don’t get me wrong sir, I find all scientific theory interesting – as far as I can understand them – that is. My issue with this particular theory, or the set of theories concerning the big bang, is that they are being offered as concrete-proven theories, borne out by “the mathematics.”

    The problem with all that is, (1) on the face of it, they make no sense (2) they are not useable to produce tangible results (3) they make the persons who advocate for them look like cultists, and science look like a religion – with self serving and self affirming ideas.

    The Big Bang does explain some things, but it cannot explain itself, and there are no acceptable answers for IT. That’s what ‘keeps the jury out’ for me. For me, it’s not an either God or the BB. I am quite fine with no explanations until one comes along, or working to find one that is all encompassing. We have to be careful not to commit to something where we don’t like it’s alternative.

  45. I find all scientific theory interesting. My issue with this particular theory 

    Issue with you accepting the historical occurrence of the BB? The forensic evidence for it is overwhelming.

    they are being offered as concrete-proven theories, borne out by “the mathematics.” 

    They’re borne out by the evidence I cited before.

     (1) on the face of it, they make no sense 

    Counterintuitive but consistent, well-evidenced ideas permeate science.

    (2) they are not useable to produce tangible results 

     
    So you don’t get a jetpack out of it; that doesn’t detract from the evidence for it.

     (3) they make the persons who advocate for them look like cultists 

    What kind of a cult says “the data support X; see these equations”? What kind of a cult doesn’t say, “This book says it, so it’s true”?

     The Big Bang cannot explain itself 

    Nothing can, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t really happen.

     We have to be careful not to commit to something where we don’t like it’s [sic] alternative. 

    I accept the BB not because I hate the God hypothesis, but because the evidence clearly shows the BB happened.

  46. those aren’t laws; they’re just types of quantity.  

    No, those are laws, attributes, and properties..Yes they are also types of quantity.  Positive, negative, and neutral applies to literally everything.. That includes you existing in the positive and not the negative context, or that sally passed her test vs fail her test ect.. There is positive, negative, and neutral actions, reactions, effects, phenomenon.. You find it in Electromagnetism to which fundamentally accounts for most of the phenomenon we see in our world. Well live in a quantized existence to which is the only form of existence you can live or exist in. Hence, you can have a negative, positive, or neutral response to this post depending how you weigh it, and interpret it. 

    Quote:
    The laws governing matter/ energy are the laws of thermodynamics.

    I am aware of that, and thermodynamics is a property of energy. And positive, negative, and neutral applies to thermodynamics as you are still dealing fundamentally with positive, negative, and neutral.. Yes it’s breaking it down to literal simplification. But fundamentally even in thermodynamics you are dealing with mathematics and properties of energy.  And thermodynamics is also just description of energy and what it can do. The difference between my argument and thermodynamics is that my description outlines the base properties of energy and its rules with itself, and thermodynamics goes into what energy can do and cannot do according to it’s thermal properties. :)

    Quote:
    “You’re mixing up “There exists an x: x = nothing” with “There does not exist an x: x = x”.”

    No, its an example of a self-refutation.. And when I talk about existence, I am talking about it being the sum total of all there is as an entity itself as a whole, or as a Universal Set of all sets.

    Example:

    I am an emergent property of existence. I came from existence itself, and I am of existence. Fundamentally I did not come from non-existence.  I am an energy being made of atoms, and atoms made of energy, and my consciousness is an emergent property of that. I didn’t come to be from non-existence, I came to be by processes of  existence itself to which produce and support my existence and conscious mind.

    So when I die, I may consciously not exist, but everything that supported and made my consciousness possible will still continue to exist.. This is no different in regards to the energy that makes up and supports the existence of the image on your computer screen.. Turn the computer off, and the image stops existing, but the atoms, and energy that made the image still exists.

    So as we understand in physics, energy can not be created or destroyed, neither can information. I could delete this post and the energy that made it would still exist.. Hence the information is still there.

     Hence we must be made of what existence itself is made of, and we must come from existence itself.. And so far everything we know of is made of energy, and energy can only come from existence itself, and be made of what existence itself is made of. And well, that is energy empirically thus far.  Even the letters on this screen, and the space around you are made entirely of energy.

  47. Are you denying physical laws? Such laws, if true, prevent other things
    from existing; either way, you deny the existence of something, though
    not of everything. This is not an issue that can be properly discussed a
    priori.

    I am not denying Physical laws when saying Existence is infinite. I am saying it must be an infinite physical system to which has no boundaries in the physical sense of capacity and volume.  I didn’t intend to say it has no boundaries in what it can and can not do.. So let me try to put that in another way :)

    http://matt-mattjwest.newsvine

    Infinite-dimensional spaces are widely used in geometry and topology, particularly as classifying spaces, notably Eilenberg−MacLane spaces. Common examples are the infinite-dimensional complex projective spaceK(Z,2) and the infinite-dimensional real projective space K(Z/2Z,1).

    If our universe is finite, it can not exist in a box, container, or volume with a capacity of literal zero. Whatever volume it’s in, will be infinite, or it could also be in another
    finite volume. However, volume in general, and capacity in general
    are always considered infinite. If it weren’t, you couldn’t be here. So since nothing or literal zero can’t actually exist and represent a boundary, there is no possible boundary.
    -
    Example (quote myself):

    _You have a brick, just a common brick. This brick, as a physical 3D
    object, can not be contained in a volume less than it’s own limits. Should
    this volume that contains this brick be finite, itself is like the
    brick to where it also can not be contained in a volume to which has a
    zero capacity, or volume.. What this means is that in order
    for the brick, or the volume to which contains the brick to exist,
    Capacity and volume must be infinite. And what most people don’t get
    is that the brick itself is literally apart of the volume to which
    it exists in. As in what makes up the volume also makes up the
    object within the volume. And this is the very energy to which is
    the capacity of both the volume and the brick itself.-Energy is the capacity, and volume of existence, and everything in and of existence empirically thus far. But existence itself must be of infinite volume and capacity itself regardless of how many universes or dimensions exist.  So our Universe is expanding in existence itself like an internal bubble.. We just don’t understand how all that works in terms of physics yet.  We don’t understand dark energy, dark matter, or everything there is to know about quantum mechanical systems ect..  But we can infer the above based on the empirical evidence.

    My issue with this particular theory, or the set of theories concerning
    the big bang, is that they are being offered as concrete-proven theories, borne out by “the mathematics.”

    I would agree here to a point. The mathematics still needs a lot of work, but fundamentally it can’t mathematically come from literal zero / non-existence.. How exactly it happened in according to physics is still a mystery, and we are still working on those theories.. So I agree to a point here, but just keep in mind that it’s going to involve physics because it is a matter of physics even we don’t understand it.. And we may never fully understand it even if we know energy is the answer, or that existence is the origin of everything.  Its like knowing Earth is a Planet but not understanding everything there is to know about Earth.  Hence, just because we know the fundamental answer doesn’t mean we understand it, or how it works in any given situation, process, or system..

    So don’t take what I wrote as an explanation of how the Big Bang happened in terms of physics.. That is not the purpose of what I wrote even though this Universe is an emergent property of they physical system, and that of energy itself.  There is even a new theory out there saying this Universe was a Phase change vs a Big Bang… So I am even still open as to how it happened.

  48.  I find all this esoteric talk about the mathematics proving it,
    distasteful. If physics is supposed to reflect the real world, then some
    tangible proof of a theory should be offered, unless it’s just a
    ‘working model’ theory. In which case, physicists should simply, and
    quite clearly state “we are not sure, but we’re working on it,” instead
    of offering ‘pompous’ half-truths.

    Well nothingness in science is at best a state where there is only a single static state to which is as close to nothing as you can possibly get without literally being “Nothing”.. Yes scientists suck as trying to explain that in laymen terms..  However the use of mathematics to prove something is a must simply because the answer has to be quantized. No matter what, it’s going to involve mathematics. Just existing is one over zero, so it’s not something you can escape when dealing with reality here.  And physics does reflect the real world as the only possible system to exist is a physical system.  Hence, things of nothing do not exist. So I repeat the following:

    Nothing can not be a literal existing, person, place, object, substance, or thing.. Nothing can not have the capacity to exist, or contain an existence of any sort or kind.  We can not be made of nothing, or be an expression of nothing.  We are of existence, and of a physical quantized existence.  And if physics had no reflection of reality, we could have no practical application of it as we do.. Your computer would not function or work if your statement were true.. So I think it’s more fair to say that we just don’t understand the physical system entirely and that there is a lot we don’t know about it.  So just because we know it has to be physical, a quantized system, or applicable to mathematics doesn’t mean we magically know everything about it, or how it works, or everything to which it can and cannot do..

  49. I appreciate with you point of view, simply stating that ‘you don’t know.’ I am not for the discontinuation of scientific exploration or experimentation or mathematical inquiry, but it cannot be allowed to go unnoticed that there was a mistake in qualifying the known scientific theories about the Big Bang as fact.

    I always thought science was big enough to say, we are investigating and don’t have the answers, but if science is insisting that it knows, but just doesn’t have all the facts it needs to prove that it knows – that is a ridiculous position.

    I maintain the following two things are factual, anyone can feel free to disagree:

    (1) Time is eternal and predated the big bang. You can always subtract 1 second from whatever point in time you start to measure.

    (2) Space is eternal and infinite and predated the big bang. The BB must have started at a particular time, at a particular point (or particular points), which point(s) had to exist in some space that was already there.

    14 Billion years ago is a long time, but simply subtract 3 seconds from that, and you have an earlier time, 3 seconds before that, and so on. 30 Billion years ago, was there objective nothing? 1 Billion Billion years before that? It seems so trivial to me, are physicists so blinded by the light of the BB that such a clear thing eludes them?

    Quite simply a BB 14 Billion years ago could not have started the universe, to start the universe it would have had to start the space this universe exists in, and as I pointed to before, that space is eternal and infinite. I don’t know what did, but I’m with the brave scientists who continue to fight the darkness.

  50.  “Poe?”

    +1

    or worse …

    Jos, your time is better spent on your PhD. Or, you could write a book:- “GCSE maths and physics to the maths of Quantum Gravity in 100,000 easy steps “.  I have made several attempts to read up on QM etc. There appear to be either simple books that stick with written descriptions and never get into the maths at all, or mathematical (text) books that within a few pages will uses a symbol, or derivation, I don’t understand, and I’m lost. One book invited me to go from low dimensional vector space (e.g. 2D), to a terse expression in infinite dimensional Hilbert space in one step. It could have explained in 2D, 3D, 20D, 1000D, nD and then “let n=infinity”.

  51. TheJackel I am aware of that, and thermodynamics is a property of energy. And
    positive, negative, and neutral applies to thermodynamics as you are
    still dealing fundamentally with positive, negative, and neutral.. Yes
    it’s breaking it down to literal simplification. But fundamentally even
    in thermodynamics you are dealing with mathematics and properties of
    energy.  And thermodynamics is also just description of energy and what
    it can do. The difference between my argument and thermodynamics is that
    my description outlines the base properties of energy and its rules
    with itself, and thermodynamics goes into what energy can do and cannot
    do according to it’s thermal properties.

    Yes I know we use mathematics in calculations about physics. 
    The laws of thermodynamics do so without requiring anything additional from your three quantities, which you have asserted are “laws”.

    The issue with maths, is if the models match reality or if they are only hypothetical models which do not map on to real physical properties when tested.

    So as we understand in physics, energy can not be created or destroyed,
    neither can information. I could delete this post and the energy that
    made it would still exist.. Hence the information is still there.

     

    False conclusion!  You are again confusing the information which maps real matter/energy and transient symbolism/ mental concepts, such as screen messages or hypothetical formuli.

    Your other comment is highly speculative and has some flaws – particularly when considering cosmic effects:

    _You have a brick, just a common brick. This brick, as a physical 3D object, can not be contained in a volume less than it’s own limits.

    Actually if you drop it into a  very large planet, a neutron  star or a black hole, it can be contained in a much reduced volume as it is crushed down by gravity to a fraction of its former size.

  52.  I always thought science was big enough to say, we are investigating and
    don’t have the answers, but if science is insisting that it knows, but
    just doesn’t have all the facts it needs to prove that it knows – that
    is a ridiculous position.

    Science is about massing facts and developing theories that best explain the body of facts.. The body of facts shape the theories, and the more facts we can amass, the more we will understand the world around us. There are a lot of aspects of quantum mechanics that have been proven and put into practical use to which includes developing quantum computing.  Science really only insists to know very well established facts, or theories.. However, it’s self-scrutinizing empirical system always open to being corrected, or having theories put into a better and more precise understanding.  And I am not sure what you are claiming that science states it knows to which you are having an issue with.. :/

    (1) Time is eternal and predated the big bang. You can always subtract 1
    second from whatever point in time you start to measure.

    This depends on your definition of time.  Time is the inertia of information / energy.. So no time in physics would be a static state where there is no inertia of information or energy.. But that is highly unlikely to have ever existed as such a state would be extremely unstable. Hence the Quantum Foam , or quantum fluctuations probably had always existed, and energy likely is always in a state of inertia. In fact, science can’t ever say energy never has inertia. Everything including space itself seems to have inertia as our expanding universe suggests.

    So if I put a cup on the table and ask you if it is moving, the correct answer would be yes. :)  Could you ever say it was not? The correct answer is likely no.. However, time in terms of duration of existence itself would indeed be infinite since non-existence could never have literally existed.

    (2) Space is eternal and infinite and predated the big bang. The BB must
    have started at a particular time, at a particular point (or particular
    points), which point(s) had to exist in some space that was already
    there.

    Space is just energy, so I would agree here that space always existed and predated the big bang..  But the time in which the Big Bang happened according to science would be about 13.7 billion years ago.. Where it happened is easy, it happened where it happened in existence. With infinite volume and capacity, there is no actual coordinate.. For example, in an infinite volume, we would exist here because we are putting our location in reference to existence itself.. But if we put a point of reference  such as an atom outside the boundaries of our universe, we could than form a coordinate system in relation to that atom.. But we can’t do that with Existence itself as a whole.  So where in existence are we? Well, we are here.. :) And here always existed in some energy state or another..

    So just think of the big bang like existence blowing a bubble within itself.. And we probably aren’t the only ones. However, we can only at this time infer to the existence of other Universes. I also really like this video to which really puts that all in perspective:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

  53. The laws of thermodynamics do so without requiring anything additional
    from your three quantities, which you have asserted are “laws”.

    I didn’t just say they were “laws”, but perhaps “Laws” isn’t a great word to use. But can there be an action or reaction that is neither positive, negative, or neutral?  I don’t think there can be.. So a law could state that you can’t have an action, or reaction of any sort that is not either positive, negative, or neutral to which includes relativity of. At least that is my thinking of it anyway :)

    However, Thermodynamics still deal with the positive and negative  properties of energy. The point is, it’s all connected. It’s all essentially energy itself to which we are attempting to describe here and put into understanding.  And the laws themselves can only seem to ever be positive, negative, or neutral in regards to the four known forces.. We see it in sound waves, gravity, and electromagnetism ect. You dissect an atom hand you have electrons with a positive charge, and the number of electrons have a lot to do with the mass of an atom, and how the atoms such as the carbon atom can form long molecular chains, or self-replicating molecules that form the foundation of life itself.

    False conclusion!  You are again confusing the information which maps
    real matter/energy and transient symbolism/ mental concepts, such as
    screen messages or hypothetical formuli.

    Umm all mental concepts are patterns of energy in the brain. Technically speaking, you can’t have information without energy.. This message is both energy and information on screen and in your head. The difference is that the information in your head is ion based information and the computer screen is electron based projected through photons from screen to your eyes and brain.  So yes, even an image of an apple in your head is a physical pattern of energy to which we can even extract and convert to electron based binary information. I would recommend looking up digital physics as well, and even read this post of mine on Newsvine to which goes into information science, theory, and discusses the human brain :

    http://technology-science.news

    Hence, all information is made of matter and energy…  And for anything to exist, it must contain and have information and informational value. Thus it must contain and have an energy value. Information isn’t just restricted to what your common concept of information is anymore. Information and energy  in this day and age are considered two sides of the same coin..  So the point is, yes there is different forms and concepts of information, but all of it is energy. 

    Now if you could show us information not comprised of energy, that would be impressive and you would win a Nobel prize for sure :)  But that isn’t going to happen.

    Actually if you drop it into a  very large planet, a neutron  star or a
    black hole, it can be contained in a much reduced volume as it is
    crushed down by gravity to a fraction of its former size.,

    The mass of an object is how much energy content it has. The point of the argument was dealing with the brick as is, and it’s not relevant of how compressed you can make it.. Hence, I am afraid you missed the point of the example entirely my friend, or misunderstood the point..  :/

    Also, even a black hole can not destroy information / energy. Hence, you can’t convert something to nothing for the same reason you can’t make something from nothing :)

    Energy / information can only change states, functions, purpose, or meaning. So when to virtual particles collide and destroy each other, they are only destroyed as particles, but are converted to another state of energy. So if I erase a message on the chalk board, and the chalk falls to the ground and sticks to the eraser, what there a loss of information? ..Well, you can say we destroyed the message, but you can’t say there is a loss of information. Thus the conversion of states, meaning, function, and purpose. ;)

  54. TheJackel –   Energy / information can only change states, functions, purpose, or meaning.

    Energy can only change states.  Information can be lost in changes of state, or dissipated in increased entropy.

     

    False conclusion!  You are again confusing the information which maps real matter/energy and transient symbolism/ mental concepts, such as screen messages or hypothetical formuli.

      Umm all mental concepts are patterns of energy in the brain.
    Technically speaking, you can’t have information without energy. This message is both energy and information on screen and in your head.

    I am well aware of the brain working on energy in various forms. 
    Your converse suggestion, that  preservation of mental or on-screen SPECIFIC information does not follow, hence your conclusion is false.  That information (such as an on-screen text message) can be lost in the transformation of energy when it no longer maps on to reality.

      TheJackel -  there are 3 fundamental laws that govern cause and effect, information, and energy. … ..
    These are not only the base laws of existence, they are the  attributes to everything

    [Later] I didn’t just say they were “laws”, but perhaps “Laws” isn’t a great word to use. 

    Mmmmmm!

     

      But can there be an action or reaction that is neither positive, negative, or neutral?  I don’t think there can be.. So a law could state that you can’t have an action, or reaction of any sort that is not either positive, negative, or neutral to which includes relativity of.

    I think Newton wrote some of those laws!   They are quite well known.  The rest is arithmetic.

  55. Energy can only change states.  Information can be lost in changes of state, or dissipated in increased entropy.

    No, the information is still there..  If I were to scramble the word “state” to “taste”, there is no loss of information, there is just a change of the information should I have used the same atoms vs sequencing others for this example. Hence, all the information still exists.. If you cut down a tree and burn it, you’re not destroying information “literally”..  You can only change the current state, function, purpose, or meaning… But you can’t literally destroy it, and the level of entropy is relevant. Increased disorder of information isn’t destroying it, and still has explicit order even if it appears disordered.  Going from low entropy to a higher entropy is only changing states.. The information is not lost, it’s still there.. When you are talking about lost, you are talking about cases regarding our inability to recover said information.  So if information falls into a black hole, we are unlikely to get it back unless we duplicate it, or recreate it. So if I toss a piece of paper into a black hole, I am not going to get that paper back,  but I can make more paper to replace it with. Yes the paper I tossed in gets destroyed as a piece of paper, but the energy (information) that made up the paper does not and is still existent.  So dissipation into increased entropy is not an argument against what I had told you.

    Your converse suggestion, that  preservation of mental or on-screen
    SPECIFIC information does not follow, hence your conclusion is false. 
    That information (such as an on-screen text message) can be lost in the
    transformation of energy when it no longer maps on to reality.

    Sorry this is wrong, and I would ask you to explain where it’s wrong and how please.. And your second statement also makes no sense regarding mapping on to reality.. It would be reality mapping itself from itself. I suspect you are talking about data corruption or a lost message when transmitted.. However that has no relevancy to the fact you can’t destroy the information, and all it would show is how information can change states, functions, purpose, entropy, or meaning.. Its never truly lost in the literal sense, as in “destroyed” in the literal sense.

    So just because I lose my keys and they are lost to me, doesn’t mean they are lost to existence. They are still here, somewhere.. And if they ere destroyed, what made them still exists in some form or state.

     
    I think Newton wrote some of those laws!   They are quite well known.  The rest is arithmetic

    I am aware of that.. However, energy and it’s properties dictate the laws. You can’t have those laws without the positive, negative, and neutral attributes / properties of energy.

  56.  

    TheJackel
    No, the information is still there..  If I were to scramble the word
    “state” to “taste”, there is no loss of information, there is just a
    change of the information

    Perhaps you would like to demonstrate this experimentally by examining the STATE  of the plutonium in a nuclear reactor?

    A change in the meaning of a message, IS a loss of information.

  57. Alan it doesn’t matter if we put plutonium in a nuclear reactor..  O.o  I don’t think you understand the point being made here.. What would happen to plutonium would still be consistent in regards to what I was talking about.  Put plutonium in a reactor, burn wood,  or scramble a word… It is all consistent to where the information / energy either changes states, function, purpose, meaning, value, properties, order, sequence,  or level of entropy ect.. 

    You can’t literally destroy the energy in which this post is made of. You can manipulate it or alter it to where the message is no longer displayed…, but you can’t destroy what the message is made of. To give you a better example,  lets take a gun and an apple:

    I shoot an apple while recording on high speed film. The bullet destroys the apple and leaves a mess. We leave the apple there and it rots and decays away.  Now no information is lost, it still all exists, but it no longer serves to be an apple.. So if we rewind the video, or if we had the power to reverse the process as it happened, we could restore that apple as it was before the bullet plows into it and blows it to pieces..   What this demonstrates is that all the information (energy) that made the apple still exists, and shows that shooting the apple and having it’s remains rot away demonstrates information/energy changing states, purpose, function, meaning, order, sequence, entropy, structure, value, properties ect..  No loss of information what-s0-ever. And that is because you can’t destroy energy, or convert something into literal nothing..  It doesn’t matter if you drop plutonium into a reactor either as this fact will not change.. 

    Energy conservation has never been violated… You can’t destroy information or energy in the literal context. So destruction of information, or loss of in science is depending on your ability to restore or recover it as it was..  Hence we can’t restore a tree as it was after we burn it even though all the information / energy that made the tree as it was still exists..   So your idea of lost or destroyed information is not applicable to what I am referring to.

  58. Conservation of mass/energy I understand, or at least accept.  Conservation of information is a bit of a stretch. Isn’t increasing entropy also decreasing information?

    Regarding mathematical models, I recall an entertaining lecture by a mathematician who could juggle, in which he “explained” patterns of juggling in terms of balls and anti-balls, with the anti-balls travelling backward in time and colliding with normal balls travelling forward, leaving, of course, nothing.  When it was all put together, it did explain the observation (of him juggling with several balls) and allow successful predictions (like when to catch descending balls, and when there was no need to), but a lot of the point was, if I recall correctly, to show that a mathematical model shouldn’t be mistaken for reality, even if it gives damn good answers.

    I just noticed TheJackal missed the joke. Alan was inviting him to investigate the TASTE of plutonium. Probably not much like chicken, but that’s just my conjecture.

  59. OHooligan
    Conservation of mass/energy I understand, or at least accept.  Conservation of
    information is a bit of a stretch.

    Conservation of energy themodynamics – no problem! –
    Information ????  No !  Not even with a stretch or a twist into a new message.

    Isn’t increasing entropy also decreasing information?

    -Increasing disorder -  All the way to the heat-death of the universe. 
    (You’d think the pseudo-scientist theist politicians would restore order & legislate against this destruction of the holy order of things)

    Probably not much like chicken, but that’s just my conjecture.

     

    Rather less of a health food I suspect!  Still what’s in the information of a message?

  60. ‘Firstly, what makes you think that there’s anything unquantifiable?’

    I don’t think that. I just don’t think that it ends at a mathematical abstraction. The thing being quantified is not the abstraction or the description of its behaviour.

    ‘Secondly, you are again criticising a popular straw man of quantum theory rather than the theory itself, for it is not people’s observations which are held to alter things, but processes on which observations are contingent, such as interactions with photons.’

    I didn’t mean to invoke this straw man, which I’m aware is a straw man. I was making a more general philosophical point about the separation of our conception of things and the things themselves, rather than claiming that QM scientists think that ‘our minds determine the world’ or some New Age crap like that.

    ‘Quantum models predict probabilities of observable events, so we can test its probabilistic claims.’

    To use an analogy in population genetics, we could say that some processes in populations are random with respect to what we’re talking about, and that contingency plays a role in how populations get structured, but that doesn’t mean that these processes or events are uncaused or that they don’t have very definite mechanisms behind them. In QM, how could anyone know that they’ve arrived at the base level of existence, and eliminated the causal chain (both beneath and ‘around’ the object in question) so that we have an unfiltered view unto reality itself? It just seems very ‘surfacey’ to me, in spite of the supposed omnipotence of theorems. I accept that these theorems predict the behaviour of the system; they track how energy is being exchanged, how often particles are popping into and our of existence, and so on, but not HOW this is happening (yes, by ‘quantum fluctuations’, but of what?). QM theorems are fine at the level that’s been analysed. Matter is unconscious and must follow regularities (being unconscious, it can’t decide on a whim to do this thing or that), with things ‘bumping’ into other things, exacerbating the effects of other things, and so on. Otherwise we’re not talking about matter. QM scientists often talk about the vacuum as being like a ‘foam’ if we could zoom in on it. Is there no foam beneath that? That foam could be completely causal; stuff would just appear to be random and discrete when we’re bumped up a level and see things that apparently behave as though they’re ‘undetermined’. But anyway, I’m saying all this from a philosophical materialist perspective. Admittedly, I’m holding our for hidden variables, which I’m quite convinced, on purely philosophical grounds, must necessarily exist. The alternative seems to me to be pure philosophical idealism. If the vast majority of physicists take events in the universe to be ‘fundamentally uncaused’, that sounds like something is wrong in physics and that it hasn’t purged the last vestiges of religion from itself.

    And yes, I will endeavour to read more QM.

  61. Luis_Cayetano:

     “Matter is unconscious and must follow regularities (being unconscious, it can’t decide on a whim to do this thing or that)”

    Your choice of the word “whim” reminded me of  John Conway’s Free Will Theorem, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F

    Conway also used the term “Free Whim”.

    I see it’s somewhat controversial. There’s no point trying to argue with me about it, I wouldn’t have a clue how to respond (or which side to take), but you might enjoy reading it up for yourself.

  62.  Alan, I vaguely recall something by Steven Hawkings about information and black holes, but my brain rejected it in self-defense.  Before that I’d never heard of the notion that information could/might/should be conserved, seems to me like a daft idea on the surface.

  63. I agree with you that scientist and particularly quantum physicist
    and cosmologist need the make an effort to explain their theories to
    the laymen. I actually think they for the most part they do a pretty
    good job. After all, they want to sell books and get government funding
    for their projects.

    QM is probably the theory least understood by laymen. Though General relativity runs a close second.

    Sometimes it is just hard and sometimes you just get a confusing
    metaphor. for example I think Shroeder’s god damned cat has created more
    confusion that help but, well, that’s just me.

    That was rather Schrödinger’s intent. He was pointing out a problem with the then accepted interpretation (“what does it *mean*”) of QM.

    On the other hand, laymen also need to understand That what we feel
    and think intuitively is a filtered through our own highly unreliable
    perceptions and senses.

    intuition does not work well at sub-atomic scales. Our common sense is based on a world of meters, kilograms and seconds.

    Hell, for all we know, none of it is what we
    (scientist and laymen) think it is.

    the scientists have the edge that their theories match the real world. The chips in your computer are built using a knowledge of QM. GPS relies on GR.

    But in the end, there must be an
    agreed method to our inquiry and rationalism which comes up with
    theories that predict outcomes must be held supperior to fairy tales
    that makes you feel good and preachers rich.

    In the end, I think the only logical position to take is that of
    agnosticism,

    why do you consider agnosticism to be more logical than atheism? Are you agnostic about Thor?

    I’m assuming you are using the usual definition of agnosticism (“I don’t know if there is a god”) rather than the original meaning (“god is unknowable”)

     but in the meantime, we do need to root out some of the
    sillier thinking.

    agreed; provided you are talking about religion and not just the bits of science you don’t like

  64.  If we want to start to understand the universe and everything in it, we need to remember:-
    All things are relative and all living things are our relatives.

    All things are *not* relative. This is popular mis-statement of the theory of relativity.

    If life arose elsewhere in the universe (highly likely in my opinion) then it is in no way related to me.

    So I’d say forget your two ideas!

  65. I am no scientist, but trying to just give my humble opinion, I do acknowledge the fact that nothingness  can be the producer of something ,anyhow don’t you think it will be way more beneficial to prove Religious people and Religions wrong by using behavioral science and contradictions?
    If you ask me, Religions are based entirely on imagination grounds, which has no liaison with life’s ground facts and proofs and morality, hence you cannot fight ghosts with hardwood broomsticks if you catch my drift?  

  66.  No argument here Nick,

    I use the word Atheist and Agnostic somewhat interchangeably as the definition of god is simply too broad to take one position. with respect to Thor, tea kettles in space, Jesus and all other mythological figures, I am an Atheist. Is god a 14 year old Korean kid with pimples and a computer simulation game 5,000 years from now? agnostic, there is no way to prove or disprove. It would however explain the god of Abraham as he also acts like an immature 14 year old with social deficiencies.

    To me, Atheism is a statement of disbelief in things when empirical data overwhelmingly contradicts it, eg magic water to wine tricks, resurrections, etc.  If someone tells me that god is the entity that exist within the gaps of quantum particles or some other woowoo, I then I profess agnosticism, mainly because I have no idea what the fuck they are talking about. As an Atheist I think it is important not to go out too far on a limb in criticizing certain beliefs and by doing so departing from our rationalist foundation. There is nothing wrong in saying ” I don’t know therefore I am not going to  make it up or dispute your unprovable (for now) supposition”.

  67. I cannot cope with advanced Math or Physics, but what would you say to someone who objects and says  ” Ah but, we know that the 2-dimensional balloon- surface exists in a higher 3-D space; and if that is true for balloons, why not for our Universe? Why can’t the 3-D Universe be expanding into 4-space?”

  68. If you wish to create something out of nothing, the first thing you must do is split nothing into a negative and a positive.  Both have real properties yet added together, they equal zero.  It’s an exciting scenario.  Particularly when physicists propose that the key ingredient of the universe was hydrogen. One electron orbiting a proton.   And that the collapse of hydrogen stars resulted in the existence of every other element on the periodic table, minus human manipulation.  Here is the logical bullshit of that conclusion.  That when a hydrogen atom is collapsed by nuclear fusion, it does not become nothing again, it becomes helium.  Or so I am told.  Yet, during the change, enormous energy is released.  You scientists must agree, that if enormous energy is released, enormous energy was stored.  From what source?   And that when a star is finally spent, it explodes.  How does zero explode?    While I love science, I frequently find myself mindfucked by theory passed off  as fact.  If I want to hear that kind of crap, I’d go to church.

    NeoWolfe

  69. –and yet we know from particle accelerator experiments that virtual particles do spontaneously appear briefly out of “Nothing”. At the event horizon of black holes the virtual particles become separated, and half of them become “Matter”, and the rest fall into the black hole and eventually cause it to evaporate and explode. The new matter formed is not hydrogen itself, but quarks, gluons and protons and electrons. Then eventually they combine into hydrogen and collapse to form stars and begin helium fusion.  When the star itself eventually explodes in a supernova, the energy is obtained from the mass of the star by E=MC(2), and therefore that released energy has ultimately come from the hydrogen which itself came from that half of the virtual particles which were released from the original black hole by Hawking Radiation,–and therefore this represents the kinetic energy originally generated by the separation of the original virtual particles,-which up to that point was only potential energy, and therefore “hidden”.

    The above is what I have gleaned from my amateur studies.  Any big howlers in it?

  70. Well I am in no way a scientist ,but many people do not fully grasp what scientists mean to say, as you see ,we, the normal civilians are not in the same class as scientists.
    They spend day and night thinking and concluding and proving.
    They just try to make it as plain and easy to understand for us , so it can fit in one article.
    Or else I suggest you take a long hike in their scientific world , but this time with a scientist to help you understand its very details.
    Scientists tend to be always misunderstood by people.
    Just a hypothesis anyway!

  71. Another person already pointed out that there is a “nothing” thread. 

    This subject is more about relating an ecological model to a quantum mechanical(QM) one.  Done in good thought by one who questions the less popularly understood QM model.  No harm in that. 

    However, unless one intends on doing due diligence and learning about the model in question, then one must take the word of others who have and be done with it.  You can check on that persons veracity if you must (I would), and verify what you can, but in the end I’ll bank that you’ll be taking the word of someone else on the matter. 

    I know next to nothing about ecology but have studied QM for quite some time.  The ecological model quoted seems to be lacking in the domain less than zero for population(simple to fix no?).  This is not the same case for QM.  Dirac made great strides in a ‘similar sense’ and as a result we ended up with anti-particles.   Virtual particles truly exist if only for a short period of time.  A fancy example of them that have quite a bit of energy (~x-ray) are near black holes. Their counterpart gets swallowed up, but one gets away free to be detected here by an apparatus on or around earth. 

    Not so grand are the experiments done in vacuum and at low temperature.   The Casimir effect is what you’ll want to look for as being a very convincing argument/experiment (only in the last 15 years has it been demonstrated). 

    The QM experiment that I just love the most is the famous double slit experiment.  This one regards the dual nature of matter in terms of particles and waves.  I mention it only because many of the comments bring this aspect of matter into the fray.

    Altogether the experiments done for the sake of refuting QM are many and the model has seen it’s fair share of alterations, but the model most widely accepted today has truly been put through it’s paces and will continue to be.  It’s not perfect.
     

  72. OP,

    I’m not qualified to even discuss QM.  I am an evolutionary ecologist by training and I’m very familiar with the models you mention.  But I do not think the comparison of the QM and biological models will be fruitful.  I have just written to pages of random thoughts and questions and will now attempt to contribute something of minute value.  I also have not read all the posts here and apologize for that.  But truth is much of it is beyond my understanding.

    I am leaning toward the opinion that your basic question as stated will not bear fruit.  In discussing the origin of the universe, it would seem the physical properties contained within that universe may be irrelevant.  

    Does something exist outside of existence?  In context of this universe, did something exist prior to the origin of this universe?  Does something exist around but outside the boundry of this universe.

    If it could be shown that ‘nothing does not exist’ within the bounds of known physics, that has little bearing on the question of the origin of the universe.

    The ‘nothing’ in models of the origin of the universe can not be the same ‘nothing’ (if such a thing exists) that laypersons or scientists mean when they talk about physics within this universe.  Our physics is a model of how things work in this universe.  But if I understand the little bit I hear on Discovery channel, our physics can’t even tell us much about the inititing event of this universe, much less anything prior to that event.  And other parts of the multiverse may have completley different physics initiated at different times. 

    Forgive my gross oversimplification, but imagine all the universes, membranes, what ever.  Each with their own physics, floating around in space (and that’s not correct either).  Is there ‘something’ between the boundries of those universes?  If there are trillions and trillions of universes, with trillions and trillions of physical models, then is there a higher order physics determining the properties of each univere? 

    Lol, I don’t see fruit bearing from these questions for a while, but I do think those will be the questions to ask regarding the origin of the universe.

  73. Hello Nick. I am new on here and just had a question. Is not Everything relative to me and my location in space and time? Is Everything relative to you and your location in space and time? I thought that everything is relative.

    I know this is a discussion about nothing, and that is a little humorous to me. Can nothing exist? That is an odd question. I would say that since everything is in existance there can be no…. nothing? I do not know, that is hard for my little speck of stardust that I call my brain to comprehend.

    I kind of agree that everything is relative and so everything is my relative… even non living things. Just a bunch of stardust…  

  74. “If life arose elsewhere in the universe (highly likely in my opinion) then it is in no way related to me.”
    I don’t agree with you in this point. It is related to you in two ways at least. First it has taken the same step from mere matter (chemistry)to complexer forms of being. Second like you this life must gain its basic material from the universe and will therefore be made out of matter we know (belonging to the periodic system of elements). But I agree with you in the question whether there is life somewhere else in the Universe.

  75. “If life arose elsewhere in the universe (highly likely in my opinion) then it is in no way related to me.”
    I don’t agree with you in this point. It is related to you in two ways at least. First it has taken the same step from mere matter (chemistry)to complexer forms of being. Second like you this life must gain its basic material from the universe and will therefore be made out of matter we know (belonging to the periodic system of elements). But I agree with you in the question whether there is life somewhere else in the Universe.

  76. i am a layperson to current natural science concepts, however i did have a fairly good scientific
    foundation. as a physician however i would consider myself properly exposed to science. I have found 
    the various discussions on nothingness, consciousness, quantum mechanics and infinity quite interesting. 
    it is in this regards i would like to add some comments to this discussion. i will however 
    remain within the layman’s language. 

    this is what i have come to realize. ITS ALL ABOUT MATHEMATICS. PERIOD. 
    in mathematics infinity and zero have placed a insurmountable burden on us yet at the same time may 
    also be responsible for our existence. the problem is zero and infinity are abstract concepts only, 
    and not achievable. any entity that is measurable is a variable. its value can only “approach” zero or 
    infinity. its empirical to the concept of mathematics. in other words these are abstract states that 
    cannot be realized. it is for this reason when a value approaches zero the quantum phenomenon dominates. 
    at near zero dimensions the meaning of solidity fades, nothing is distinct and its all about probabilities. 
    particles behave like waves. 

    nothingness is unstable and there is an empirical tendency to create energy out of nothing at all. the so called
    quantum fluctuations.this is a law of mathematics.   

    secondly its also about relativity. if our existence is within an infinite ocean of nothingness then our 
    universe’s moment of existence is near zero relative to that ocean of nothingness, but relative to us 
    it could well be near infinite, since our time references are different. its appears that there is still nothingness
    even now. we however exist within that nothingness (to any observer there) perhaps for only a near zero moment of time. 

    yes i agree it sounds weird, but i think its also logical.the leap of faith ironically is that the 
    energy created out of nothingness is really only abstract potential energy, which general relativity makes real to us.
    this creates the big bang and our universe evolves 100% within the laws of nature. from mathematics, to physics, 
    then chemistry then biology and finally consciousness.Yes it took 13.7 billion years for 
    the conscious mind reading this post to do so at this moment in time.   

  77. After doing much study unto the realm of quantum physics I have got this idea that, theoretically if light were quantized ( having a minimum energy) then that would mean that there is a shortest distance it can go. Which could have an interesting impact on how we see things. Primarily that there could be a particle in the path of the light, but because it is too close to where the light travels to it would essentially be in between the spaces that light can touch.  This would mean simply that they would seem to appear and disappear to us but in reality would be there the whole time. As for quantum physics and its meanings about “god” To that i say, if we do prove tat there are extra dimentions it definitely would allow for a “god” to exist, no telling what it would be like or if it would be just a random amorphous blob whether it is mentally capable is another thing entirely. So it definitely does not say god is impossible. But then again it does not say god is necessary. 

  78. The only light I can shed is to point out that your use of the word “uncaused” presupposes a continuum of time for which there exists “nothing” before there exists “something”. It’s slightly less paraxdoxical when you realize that Relativity shows continuous time itself to be an illusion…or a warpable thing. Relativity makes it at least ponderable to ‘step away from time’, for a second, and ponder the universe without a fixed flowrate of time. All causality problems, like the question of what created our universe, and then what created that thing, etc. (infinite regress), presuppose some imaginary clock to be ticking all the time. Spacetime isn’t like that. It can totally fracture and even stop; as in a black hole. So if you take away spacetime from the ‘equation’ you are really only left with statistics, and the following statement, becomes almost sensible: “It’s equally likely for something to exist as it is for nothing to exist”. Both have an equal chance. And Quantum Mechanics loves to balance things out in this way!

  79. The whole concept of ‘nothing is not really nothing’ is a bit of a philosophical cop-out, in terms of – for example – the Big Bang.

    It can be argued that the universe can come from nothing by the argument that nothing is not actually nothing; but the reasoning behind that is the idea of quantum phenomena….But this appears to ignore that quantum phenomena are aspects of the physical universe we inhabit. In other words it must be argued that the physics of quantum mechanics, at the very least, have always been in existence. In other words on has to face up to an eternal presence of quantum physics at least in order to argue that.

    There is, therefore, no reason to have the universe predicated upon a Big Bang, and in fact to argue a Big Bang on that basis is to implicitly argue that the quantum universe already existed.

    Is our understanding of quantum mechanics complete? I don’t se how it can be. In fact any attempt at an understanding of quantum mechanics is almost completely rejected by the ‘shut up and calculate’ mentality. Does that mean that we can return to classical physics? No, there is clearly something that quantum mechanics is describing that is not classical in content.

  80. If I am understanding correctly, something has always existed, then? Not a universe, of course, but some state in which a universe could arise naturally, without need for supernatural influence? It isn’t steady state, and it isn’t oscillation, but it is something? If what you say is true, then I must agree that the term “nothing” is meaningless. So I hope I’m not getting it wrong, because I think it helps me to understand better.

    • *In reply to #90 by —

      If I am understanding correctly, something has always existed, then? Not a universe, of course, but some state in which a universe could arise naturally, without need for supernatural influence? It isn’t steady state, and it isn’t oscillation, but it is something? If what you say is true, then I must agree that the term “nothing” is meaningless.

      I’m no physicist but I’ve read Kraus’s book and I think you have it right. I don’t agree though that the conclusion is that “nothing” is meaningless. “nothing” is just an abstraction that has different meanings in different contexts. Saying that Kraus’s theory is true means “nothing” is meaningless is no more true than to say his theory means “zero” is meaningless. What it means is that we have a scientific definition for “nothing” in the context of “what was there when there was no universe” we used to just say “nothing” to answer that question and that was all we could say. If the theory is right we can now describe what we mean with mathematical rigor. Whether we still call that thing “nothing” is just an accident of language, its a convention not a meaningful theoretical issue.

      • In reply to #91 by Red Dog:

        *In reply to #90 by —

        If I am understanding correctly, something has always existed, then? Not a universe, of course, but some state in which a universe could arise naturally, without need for supernatural influence? It isn’t steady state, and it isn’t oscillation, but it is something? If what yo…

        Okay, thank you for clarifying. I’d always grappled with that one, and I think it makes more sense to me now.

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