can "nothing" exist?

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sinc
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can "nothing" exist?

Postby sinc » Wed Oct 28, 2009 12:10 am UTC

Something has really been boggling my mind lately. When i think of how religious people say that at one point there was nothing.... Is this possible?

i know in the big bang theory, everything was packed into one point, that suddenly blew the fuck up, or a similar story.

but, how can there be nothing? Isn't there some sort of scientific law that says all matter must come from somewhere.

and if there was nothing... what would be the point of existence? Of course there would be none, but if there is nothing, then there is, well nothing! :o its a great arguement in my head, i just cant write it down! :?

lets say that we are back in that fabeled time where this so called "nothing" existed. nobody would be there to observe, nothing would happen. would time pass? there certainly wouldent be anything happenning. perhaps time is frozen when there is nothing, assuming, that there would be a point of time.

perhaps something to clarify my arguement: Lets say there was a jar of nothing, some sort of vacuum that truly consists of nothing. assuming this glass jar we keep nothing in doesn't implode from all of the pressure that does not exist within the jar. Now, everything in the universe has a purpose, (well everything non abstract, so no asking "what about life?") but everything exists and can be scientifically be studied and explained why it is there, and how it got there (well, MOST stuff, but bear with me) Does nothing have a purpose? how can you create nothing? Why is nothing there? Where did it come from? Can nothing escape? and disperse into there air? Perhaps nothing is a solid, so densly packed together that there isnt a single thing in the universe that can be contained by it.

im no philosopher, so i was wondering if anybody could share their opinions.... thanks! :D
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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby achan1058 » Wed Oct 28, 2009 12:37 am UTC

I don't recall the Big Bang saying anything about the universe coming from nothing, or a mathematical point. I only recall that at some time in the past, the universe is small and dense enough that all known physic laws breaks down.
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sinc
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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby sinc » Wed Oct 28, 2009 12:44 am UTC

achan1058 wrote:I don't recall the Big Bang saying anything about the universe coming from nothing, or a mathematical point. I only recall that at some time in the past, the universe is small and dense enough that all known physic laws breaks down.



well, i say point as in, in a very small, dense space as you defined..

sorry for not being clear.
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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby +ranslucent » Wed Oct 28, 2009 12:39 pm UTC

1. To have actual being; be real.

That's just an online definition, but pretty much wherever you go, I think something along these lines will follow you. If something it exists, it has some form of being; material, energy, idea, whatever. 'Nothing', by definition, would have none of these. So no, it couldn't exist.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Mattg500001 » Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:21 pm UTC

The question of nothing before the big bang always seems to me, and I am ready to be corrected, meaningless. Time (at least the time that we are part of) is part of space-time, and before space time 'began', there was no 'before'.

So there is no worry about nothing existing because there was nowhen for it to not exist.

And for the record, are there not theories about how something came from nothing? Inflation and suchlike?

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Two9A » Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:25 pm UTC

According to SCIENCE, there can never be nothing. Even in a pure vacuum, harder than the one you'd find in interstellar space, there's energy; energy is matter, so you'd have particles popping into existence with a mass of (some), interacting with their anti-particle created at the same time, and vanishing. If I recall, that comes about because we can't say anything at the quantum level with certainty, so we can't say a region of space has Nothing inside, and be 100% sure about it.

Philosophically, this equates to nothing being in the volume, since there's nothing that you can grab hold of and use (under current theories).

I love quantum mechanics sometimes.
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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Mattg500001 » Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:38 pm UTC

But we aren't talking about a vacuum, whether a real empty space or not, we are talking about the absence of the space in the first place. There is nowhere for there to be a vacuum, but that is ok, because there is nowhen for it to have been either.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Yakk » Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:54 pm UTC

Q1: Can we model it? (A universe with nothing)
Q2: Can we model it using math that prettily merges with a model of a universe with something?
Q3: Do we need it to explain anything? (A universe with nothing)


There are lots of models of 'what happened before the big bang'. They include:
1> Before the big bang makes as much sense as north of the north pole.
2> There wasn't nothing; instead, the inflation of the big bang pushed whatever was there aside (or maybe there was close to nothing)
3> There was no big bang; based off observations, it is most likely that I'm a brain floating in a vacuum hallucinating that the universe exists, and as part of this hallucination I imagine that things used to be more ordered (and everything at one point).

And stranger things than the above. The point is Q3: as yet, 'before the big bang' theories don't generate sufficient information to explain/predict observations, so what we have is flailing about. You can take models of the universe, and in some cases attempt to solve for 'before the big bang'; in others, you explicitly cannot. As yet, none have generated useful predictions.
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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby SpazzyMcGee » Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:49 pm UTC

+ranslucent wrote:1. To have actual being; be real.

That's just an online definition, but pretty much wherever you go, I think something along these lines will follow you. If something it exists, it has some form of being; material, energy, idea, whatever. 'Nothing', by definition, would have none of these. So no, it couldn't exist.

I think that pretty much was the defining post of this thread. Nothing is defined to not be something, or real.

That said, I created a little thought experiment awhile back while thinking about why our particular universe came about instead of the many others that might have been possible. Occam's razor dictates the simplest form is more likely. Well the simplest thing I could think of was the absence of anything, nothing. I then set about imagining nothing (my sister would have a field day if I ever said that to her). To do this I took our current universe and began subtracting characteristics. Take away matter, energy, space and time, the speed of light, gravity, conservation of energy, the four fundamental forces, etc. and one is left with nothing. I then thought, what is the universe but a set of rules, or limitations? Our universe isn't really defined by what is possible, but what isn't possible. The "existence" of nothing would be the absence of any restrictions... in other words there would be no reason why ever single thing that isn't logically impossible (like round squares) wouldn't exist in such a universe. It kind of lends itself to the idea of the multiverse.

It's all just metaphysical so I don't put much weight behind it.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Clumpy » Wed Oct 28, 2009 11:42 pm UTC

I recall reading that scholarly analysis has found that the word usually translated as "created" is in fact closer to "formed." We LDS folk might say "organized" and it's hardly a new belief to some sects of Christianity that God didn't create matter itself.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Variance » Thu Oct 29, 2009 12:57 am UTC

sinc wrote:Something has really been boggling my mind lately. When i think of how religious people say that at one point there was nothing.... Is this possible?

By the laws of conservation of energy, this is not possible. All things had to have existed for eternity. This is why religious people say this: because by that same law, and the corollary of entropy, our observation of the Big Bang and the singularity it resulted from contradict the laws of nature. Therefore, something supernatural must have caused it.

know in the big bang theory, everything was packed into one point, that suddenly blew the fuck up, or a similar story.

but, how can there be nothing? Isn't there some sort of scientific law that says all matter must come from somewhere.

You hit the nail on the head. There can only be nothing if the laws of nature are violated, which requires the existence of something supernatural to violate them.

and if there was nothing... what would be the point of existence? Of course there would be none, but if there is nothing, then there is, well nothing! :o its a great arguement in my head, i just cant write it down! :?

lets say that we are back in that fabeled time where this so called "nothing" existed. nobody would be there to observe, nothing would happen. would time pass? there certainly wouldent be anything happenning. perhaps time is frozen when there is nothing, assuming, that there would be a point of time.

By the law of conservation of energy and momentum, if there was nothing at any given point in time, then there could be nothing after or at any point in the future. You are correct that nothing can come from nothing. That is, unless something supernatural intervened and established existence.

Does nothing have a purpose? how can you create nothing? Why is nothing there? Where did it come from?

I think a more interesting argument is to substitute "things" in for "nothing". Nothing is the natural state of the universe. Existing things are, by themselves, supernatural: it's unnatural that anything would exist.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby achan1058 » Thu Oct 29, 2009 2:53 am UTC

Variance wrote:By the laws of conservation of energy, this is not possible. All things had to have existed for eternity. This is why religious people say this: because by that same law, and the corollary of entropy, our observation of the Big Bang and the singularity it resulted from contradict the laws of nature. Therefore, something supernatural must have caused it.
Or everything can just be 1 big cycle, happening over and over again.

Variance wrote:You hit the nail on the head. There can only be nothing if the laws of nature are violated, which requires the existence of something supernatural to violate them.
Scientific laws are "merely" observations (even if they are observed billions and billions of times). These observations are valid for the vast majority of cases (like anything you would ever deal with in your life, as well as the work of most people, including scientists), but are contradictory until a very short time after the big bang. We don't know what is happening there, except that the known rules of physics break down (ie. the laws of nature as we know it is most likely wrong at or before that point). A side point, I find it rather interesting how some religious people will say the rest of scientific laws are supporting religion, while ignoring the Law of Evolution.

Variance wrote:I think a more interesting argument is to substitute "things" in for "nothing". Nothing is the natural state of the universe. Existing things are, by themselves, supernatural: it's unnatural that anything would exist.
I do find this a rather interesting view point. How do we know that we are not in a matrix or something?

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby SpazzyMcGee » Thu Oct 29, 2009 3:04 am UTC

Variance wrote:I think a more interesting argument is to substitute "things" in for "nothing". Nothing is the natural state of the universe. Existing things are, by themselves, supernatural: it's unnatural that anything would exist.

As already laid out by several previous posters "nothing" cannot exist. Obviously it isn't a natural state of things. I don't know how you justify the argument natural things must be supernatural.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Variance » Thu Oct 29, 2009 3:45 am UTC

achan1058 wrote:
Variance wrote:By the laws of conservation of energy, this is not possible. All things had to have existed for eternity. This is why religious people say this: because by that same law, and the corollary of entropy, our observation of the Big Bang and the singularity it resulted from contradict the laws of nature. Therefore, something supernatural must have caused it.
Or everything can just be 1 big cycle, happening over and over again.

Three points on this:
-We observe a finite amount of matter in the universe and that it will not enter a Big Crunch scenario, so the universe will not recur in the future;
-It is possible that the Big Bang was the result of a previous Big Crunch, and that the universe has been recurring infinitely prior to this incarnation, but:
-The amount of energy that will be lost to entropy during the Heat Death is so great as a percentage of mass-energy in the universe that it indicates we are likely not just barely overstepping the bounds of the Big Crunch to just barely lose our universe this time around.

In essence, that is possible but very, very unlikely, and it is definitely not happening again.

Variance wrote:You hit the nail on the head. There can only be nothing if the laws of nature are violated, which requires the existence of something supernatural to violate them.
Scientific laws are "merely" observations (even if they are observed billions and billions of times). These observations are valid for the vast majority of cases (like anything you would ever deal with in your life, as well as the work of most people, including scientists), but are contradictory until a very short time after the big bang. We don't know what is happening there, except that the known rules of physics break down (ie. the laws of nature as we know it is most likely wrong at or before that point). A side point, I find it rather interesting how some religious people will say the rest of scientific laws are supporting religion, while ignoring the Law of Evolution.

That is a good inclusion: the laws could have been different at the time. Then either the laws as observed changed, or the laws were directly violated. However, either case, including the laws changing, is unnatural; the laws changing being unnatural by the law of Uniformitarianism.

As for Evolution, it's very easy to disregard something that doesn't match up with your preconceived conclusions. I find the modern debate very much like the turmoil the Renaissance Church went through to accept that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

Variance wrote:I think a more interesting argument is to substitute "things" in for "nothing". Nothing is the natural state of the universe. Existing things are, by themselves, supernatural: it's unnatural that anything would exist.
I do find this a rather interesting view point. How do we know that we are not in a matrix or something?

This, the Brain-in-a-vat hypothetical, is the centerpiece of this thread:http://forums.xkcd.com/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=46964

Basically, we can't know because we cannot perceive the Absolute nature of reality, but to that end, it doesn't matter anyway precisely because there's no way to tell.
SpazzyMcGee wrote:
Variance wrote:I think a more interesting argument is to substitute "things" in for "nothing". Nothing is the natural state of the universe. Existing things are, by themselves, supernatural: it's unnatural that anything would exist.

As already laid out by several previous posters "nothing" cannot exist. Obviously it isn't a natural state of things. I don't know how you justify the argument natural things must be supernatural.

Natural things themselves are not supernatural, but the fact that they exist is. See the Cosmological Argument.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby SpazzyMcGee » Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:38 am UTC

Variance wrote:Natural things themselves are not supernatural, but the fact that they exist is. See the Cosmological Argument.

1) Time as we know it didn't exist before the big bang, thus there was no before.
2) Even if there was a chain of events prior to the big bang it can be explained by:
A) A cyclic universe
B) A multiverse
3) Your argument being an argument for the existenc of God, you still have to explain why the specific characteristics of God (like "his" sentience , the ability to create stuff out of nothing, "his" intentions/predisposition to create, or why "he" created this specific universe) came about.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby achan1058 » Thu Oct 29, 2009 5:46 am UTC

Variance wrote:That is a good inclusion: the laws could have been different at the time. Then either the laws as observed changed, or the laws were directly violated. However, either case, including the laws changing, is unnatural; the laws changing being unnatural by the law of Uniformitarianism.
It could also be that our current understanding of the universe is simply not enough. ie. The laws we know of right are only approximately correct, and fail under conditions which are never meant to be applied to in the first place. This happened with Newton's laws of motion, until Einstein came along and make a better law that generalizes Newton's to include those conditions as well. In fact, I would say this is the most likely case, out of all cases.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby telcontar42 » Thu Oct 29, 2009 7:00 am UTC

Variance wrote:
sinc wrote:Something has really been boggling my mind lately. When i think of how religious people say that at one point there was nothing.... Is this possible?

By the laws of conservation of energy, this is not possible. All things had to have existed for eternity. This is why religious people say this: because by that same law, and the corollary of entropy, our observation of the Big Bang and the singularity it resulted from contradict the laws of nature. Therefore, something supernatural must have caused it.

know in the big bang theory, everything was packed into one point, that suddenly blew the fuck up, or a similar story.

but, how can there be nothing? Isn't there some sort of scientific law that says all matter must come from somewhere.

You hit the nail on the head. There can only be nothing if the laws of nature are violated, which requires the existence of something supernatural to violate them.

and if there was nothing... what would be the point of existence? Of course there would be none, but if there is nothing, then there is, well nothing! :o its a great arguement in my head, i just cant write it down! :?

lets say that we are back in that fabeled time where this so called "nothing" existed. nobody would be there to observe, nothing would happen. would time pass? there certainly wouldent be anything happenning. perhaps time is frozen when there is nothing, assuming, that there would be a point of time.

By the law of conservation of energy and momentum, if there was nothing at any given point in time, then there could be nothing after or at any point in the future. You are correct that nothing can come from nothing. That is, unless something supernatural intervened and established existence.

This isn't true. There are valid cosmological theories describing the universe coming into existence out of nothing. If I understand correctly, this is possible without violation of conservation of energy due to certain aspects of quantum mechanics. Here's an interview with a well respected cosmologist that explains this better than I can. The most relevant part is around 9:20.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Yakk » Thu Oct 29, 2009 2:39 pm UTC

Variance wrote:By the laws of conservation of energy, this is not possible.

It is possible: conservation of energy merely requires that any energy generated also have a matching energy debt somehow.
All things had to have existed for eternity.

No? Sure, the energy budget must be unchanged; but the things it is in doesn't have to be, and we can experimentally detect virtual particles that come into existence spontaneously with an energy debt that matches their energy budget.

And yes, I said experimentally detect. Stick two metal plates close enough to each other, and you get a zone of negative energy caused by virtual particles cancelling themselves out. I'm well aware that this sounds crazy; but I'm trying to describe reality as it seems to be, not sound sane. ;-)

So we have observations that everywhere, pairs of particles are coming into existence with an energy debt, then colliding and disappearing again. These particles are hard to see (as is everything at that scale, but these guys are even harder), but you can use their existence to generate effects (including Hawking radiation and the negative energy trick above).

Some models make the big bang just a huge example of the above. Naturally, these models are not complete -- they aren't proven or anything.

Just because we don't have a solution to problem X, doesn't mean that we should pull out a supernatural (ie, non-understandable) thing and say "the supernatural must have caused X". We have a very long history of people using the supernatural to explain things they didn't understand; and a shorter history of the supernatural's claim to dominance being torn to shreds as we produced explanations for what 'must be supernatural'. Saying "hey look, it is a problem that hasn't been answered definitely" and then concluding "it must be supernatural" doesn't seem to be a good plan.
know in the big bang theory, everything was packed into one point, that suddenly blew the fuck up, or a similar story.
Not really. We have observational evidence that the universe was very hot and dense and that space itself expanded rapidly, reducing the density and hence the temperature of the universe. We have no evidence that it was ever 'at a point'; we don't know if the universe is bounded in extent.

We have models that include everything being a point, to this happening when two 'branes' collide, to a myriad of other things.
By the law of conservation of energy and momentum, if there was nothing at any given point in time, then there could be nothing after or at any point in the future.
And now you are making less sense. Where did you throw in momentum conservation? With momentum, creating non-zero momentum from zero momentum is easy: just have two things floating, then push one in one direction and another in another direction. Momentum, even at macroscopic levels, is clearly a vector quantity.
Three points on this:
-We observe a finite amount of matter in the universe and that it will not enter a Big Crunch scenario, so the universe will not recur in the future;

We observe a finite amount of matter; we cannot bound the universe to a finite amount of matter, because we cannot see 'around the entire universe'. There are also problems with our models predicting macroscopic behaviour of the universe; both dark matter and dark energy are not well understood.
-The amount of energy that will be lost to entropy during the Heat Death is so great as a percentage of mass-energy in the universe that it indicates we are likely not just barely overstepping the bounds of the Big Crunch to just barely lose our universe this time around.

Entropy must increase; do we have an upper bound at which it cannot pass?

But yes, Entropy is a serious problem. What is worse is that statistical models of Entropy lead to really weird universes being more likely.
That is a good inclusion: the laws could have been different at the time. Then either the laws as observed changed, or the laws were directly violated. However, either case, including the laws changing, is unnatural; the laws changing being unnatural by the law of Uniformitarianism.

Uniformitarianism is a theory. If it turns out not to be true, so be it. You'd need some good evidence before you'd discard it, naturally.

Note that the laws of science are observations about how things behave. If it turns out there is a parameter in the laws that we don't know about, that doesn't mean that there are no laws; it just means that the laws we thought where good turned out to be imperfect.

That is a good thing. :)
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby sinc » Thu Oct 29, 2009 7:58 pm UTC

so, is the only natural possibility is for there to be nothing at all? :shock:
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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby SpazzyMcGee » Fri Oct 30, 2009 1:44 am UTC

sinc wrote:so, is the only natural possibility is for there to be nothing at all? :shock:

Nothing by definition doesn't exist.If IT existed then it wouldn't be nothing.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Variance » Fri Oct 30, 2009 2:54 am UTC

SpazzyMcGee wrote:
Variance wrote:Natural things themselves are not supernatural, but the fact that they exist is. See the Cosmological Argument.

1) Time as we know it didn't exist before the big bang, thus there was no before.
2) Even if there was a chain of events prior to the big bang it can be explained by:
A) A cyclic universe
B) A multiverse
3) Your argument being an argument for the existenc of God, you still have to explain why the specific characteristics of God (like "his" sentience , the ability to create stuff out of nothing, "his" intentions/predisposition to create, or why "he" created this specific universe) came about.

1. And therefore time itself came about from nothing, again for no apparent natural reason. There must have been a motive force behind such a change.
2. I just explained in the previous post why infinite repetition is unlikely to be the case. As for a multiverse, the issue of where everything came from still stands.
3. God and his abilities didn't come about, that's why he's supernatural by definition. You're trying to apply the Law of Cause and Effect to God, when God is the first and causeless cause by his nature. God's nature is to be, not to be because of.

achan1058 wrote:
Variance wrote:That is a good inclusion: the laws could have been different at the time. Then either the laws as observed changed, or the laws were directly violated. However, either case, including the laws changing, is unnatural; the laws changing being unnatural by the law of Uniformitarianism.
It could also be that our current understanding of the universe is simply not enough. ie. The laws we know of right are only approximately correct, and fail under conditions which are never meant to be applied to in the first place. This happened with Newton's laws of motion, until Einstein came along and make a better law that generalizes Newton's to include those conditions as well. In fact, I would say this is the most likely case, out of all cases.

Our knowledge of how things act at different levels has changed, but those of conservation of energy and cause and effect have not, because they have been observed to be absolute natural laws. Furthermore, it's a common misconception that Newton's laws of motion (which are not the laws of conservation of energy) don't work on the quantum scale. It's not that they don't work, it's just that our observational capabilities at that level make them inappropriate for any valuable use.

telcontar42 wrote:This isn't true. There are valid cosmological theories describing the universe coming into existence out of nothing. If I understand correctly, this is possible without violation of conservation of energy due to certain aspects of quantum mechanics. Here's an interview with a well respected cosmologist that explains this better than I can. The most relevant part is around 9:20.

This is the idea that time started at the Big Bang again. I don't know how this helps the argument that the Big Bang could have come about by itself; it just mandates that we ask how time, too, could have come about from nothing.
Yakk wrote:
Variance wrote:By the laws of conservation of energy, this is not possible.

It is possible: conservation of energy merely requires that any energy generated also have a matching energy debt somehow.

Energy debt does not violate the laws of conservation of energy because a proportional amount of negative energy is created. Experiments relating to energy debt as seen in antimatter and matter eliminating each other don't show something coming from nothing; they show that the net balance of force in a system must come to 0 at some point. This does not apply to mass-energy opposing an opposite along an existence-based axis, it applies to polar forces opposing along a net-0 force-based axis.

You misunderstand Energy Debt to say that it is something coming from nothing. For example: take a piece of wood with a net magnetic charge of 0. You can separate the system into positively and negatively charged components, but entropy and conservation of energy say that the system will eventually return to an effective charge of 0 one way or another. This is how energy debt works: debt is leveled against a preexisting system. An electron and a proton can't come from empty space because space is not charge-neutral, there is no charge at all. Antiparticles aren't "anti-existent" particles, they just have opposing charges. Their existence is just as positive a thing as the existence of normal particles. To say that energy debt could be leveled against nothing, which has not been the observed case, violates the laws of conservation of energy because there is no such thing as a "non-energy" particle or "non-matter" particle.
All things had to have existed for eternity.

No? Sure, the energy budget must be unchanged; but the things it is in doesn't have to be, and we can experimentally detect virtual particles that come into existence spontaneously with an energy debt that matches their energy budget.

And yes, I said experimentally detect. Stick two metal plates close enough to each other, and you get a zone of negative energy caused by virtual particles cancelling themselves out. I'm well aware that this sounds crazy; but I'm trying to describe reality as it seems to be, not sound sane. ;-)

Again, there is no such thing as negative energy, as opposed to existing energy.
So we have observations that everywhere, pairs of particles are coming into existence with an energy debt, then colliding and disappearing again. These particles are hard to see (as is everything at that scale, but these guys are even harder), but you can use their existence to generate effects (including Hawking radiation and the negative energy trick above).

This is a misinterpretation of the whole virtual particle theory; it applies only to system with a positive nature in the beginning. For example, the emergence of blackbody radiation to an observer is mediated by the Unruh effect, which causes vacuum polarization that produces a virtual electron and positron pair. This is not a spontaneous result of nothing: it is the result of eigenstate electromagnetic background radiation being skewed to an observer being accelerated. The background radiation is the positive medium (positive in the existence sense, not magnetic sense) by which this occurs: a ground-state system with high enough entropy to be nearly charge-neutral from any observational level skews into being polarized at a level that can be predicted and observed to lose its ground state from the point of an observer.

I want to emphasize that something cannot come from nothing. The emergence of spontaneous energy-debt particles is not a result of nothing: it is the result of something, the eigenstate system they are observed in and the observer. The only reason we can have such things happen is because of the preexisting positive nature of the system and observer.

Just because we don't have a solution to problem X, doesn't mean that we should pull out a supernatural (ie, non-understandable) thing and say "the supernatural must have caused X". We have a very long history of people using the supernatural to explain things they didn't understand; and a shorter history of the supernatural's claim to dominance being torn to shreds as we produced explanations for what 'must be supernatural'. Saying "hey look, it is a problem that hasn't been answered definitely" and then concluding "it must be supernatural" doesn't seem to be a good plan.

The point the Cosmological argument makes is not that we don't know how this happened and therefore it's supernatural , it's that given a definition of nature as that which is confined to the laws we derive from observation, anything outside such laws is necessarily supernatural.
By the law of conservation of energy and momentum, if there was nothing at any given point in time, then there could be nothing after or at any point in the future.
And now you are making less sense. Where did you throw in momentum conservation? With momentum, creating non-zero momentum from zero momentum is easy: just have two things floating, then push one in one direction and another in another direction. Momentum, even at macroscopic levels, is clearly a vector quantity.

You introduce momentum into a system when you push a floating thing into another. That you create a nonzero momentum is not relevant to these laws. The point is that momentum, once observed to exist, never goes away as a net quantity in a closed system. I threw in momentum as well because the universe is observed to have a non-zero net momentum, so given that as an effect, we wonder at the cause for the same reasons as we wonder why matter and energy exist.
Entropy must increase; do we have an upper bound at which it cannot pass?

Entropy increases infinitely, so the "upper bound" would be a system that cannot be observed to have any differentiable force or stored energy above or below the net energy it started at when accounting for spatial growth over time compared to energy concentration: a system with 0 free energy.

Everything would be dead at such a point, so there is no escaping the Heat Death.
Uniformitarianism is a theory. If it turns out not to be true, so be it. You'd need some good evidence before you'd discard it, naturally.

Note that the laws of science are observations about how things behave. If it turns out there is a parameter in the laws that we don't know about, that doesn't mean that there are no laws; it just means that the laws we thought where good turned out to be imperfect.

These laws are the natural laws. If a supernatural force could be scientifically proven, it would be integrated into science; however, the distinction between natural and supernatural would still exist.

Take, for instance, the Christian God. He guarantees eternal life, which is refuted as unnatural by entropy. However, were he to be proven to exist, the reality would be that you can violate the natural laws. This does not change the fact that the natural laws are correct insofar as they apply to nature and are still absolutes for nature. When something supernatural happens, we don't need to change the laws to include an exception: we need to recognize a supernatural exception that should not be considered or included in the context of natural law, because we know that nature, being limited by entropy and conservation of energy, cannot reproduce something from nothing.

In essence, something can be known to exist and still be supernatural. This applies to the Big Bang or its causes. Nature is that which is constrained by natural law, and supernature is that which is not, and hypothetically contains God or whatever supernatural force triggered existence. If the laws of physics changed tomorrow, such a change would not be accepted as an exception to Uniformitarianism, it would be seen as supernatural for violating the laws in a way that nothing in nature can.

sinc wrote:so, is the only natural possibility is for there to be nothing at all? :shock:

That's why, as some people argue, the fact that anything exists is supernatural.

Nothing by definition doesn't exist.If IT existed then it wouldn't be nothing.

He's not asking whether nothing can exist, he's asking whether its natural for it to be the state of the universe.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby achan1058 » Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:04 am UTC

Variance wrote:
achan1058 wrote:
Variance wrote:That is a good inclusion: the laws could have been different at the time. Then either the laws as observed changed, or the laws were directly violated. However, either case, including the laws changing, is unnatural; the laws changing being unnatural by the law of Uniformitarianism.
It could also be that our current understanding of the universe is simply not enough. ie. The laws we know of right are only approximately correct, and fail under conditions which are never meant to be applied to in the first place. This happened with Newton's laws of motion, until Einstein came along and make a better law that generalizes Newton's to include those conditions as well. In fact, I would say this is the most likely case, out of all cases.

Our knowledge of how things act at different levels has changed, but those of conservation of energy and cause and effect have not, because they have been observed to be absolute natural laws. Furthermore, it's a common misconception that Newton's laws of motion (which are not the laws of conservation of energy) don't work on the quantum scale. It's not that they don't work, it's just that our observational capabilities at that level make them inappropriate for any valuable use.
There is nothing absolute that can be observed, unless you can somehow make every possible observation, at every possible moment of time. Otherwise, everything in science is about correlation. Nope, not even cause and effect, correlations. Uniformitarianism is merely a consequence of the observations which shows that things are consistent through time. There's a similar thread in the Science forum and we have already beat it to death. Anyways, I was talking about relativity, which I was using an example on how we can have incomplete understanding of the laws of nature.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby SpazzyMcGee » Fri Oct 30, 2009 11:36 pm UTC

Variance wrote:
SpazzyMcGee wrote:
Variance wrote:Natural things themselves are not supernatural, but the fact that they exist is. See the Cosmological Argument.

1) Time as we know it didn't exist before the big bang, thus there was no before.
2) Even if there was a chain of events prior to the big bang it can be explained by:
A) A cyclic universe
B) A multiverse
3) Your argument being an argument for the existenc of God, you still have to explain why the specific characteristics of God (like "his" sentience , the ability to create stuff out of nothing, "his" intentions/predisposition to create, or why "he" created this specific universe) came about.

1. And therefore time itself came about from nothing, again for no apparent natural reason. There must have been a motive force behind such a change.
2. I just explained in the previous post why infinite repetition is unlikely to be the case. As for a multiverse, the issue of where everything came from still stands.
3. God and his abilities didn't come about, that's why he's supernatural by definition. You're trying to apply the Law of Cause and Effect to God, when God is the first and causeless cause by his nature. God's nature is to be, not to be because of.


Variance wrote:Three points on this:
-We observe a finite amount of matter in the universe and that it will not enter a Big Crunch scenario, so the universe will not recur in the future;
-It is possible that the Big Bang was the result of a previous Big Crunch, and that the universe has been recurring infinitely prior to this incarnation, but:
-The amount of energy that will be lost to entropy during the Heat Death is so great as a percentage of mass-energy in the universe that it indicates we are likely not just barely overstepping the bounds of the Big Crunch to just barely lose our universe this time around.

2) Is that the your argument for why the universe is likely not cyclic? I take it you have never heard of M-Theory. Just because the universe as far we can tell is not going to "end" in a big crunch doesn't mean it is not cyclic.
1+2+3) You can't just arbitrarily say God is above causation but then just as arbitrarily say everything else must be caused. "His abilities didn't come about, that's why he is supernatural"... so what exactly is your definition of supernatural? Couldn't I just as arbitrarily say a supernatural tennis racket shaped universe making machine made everything? It's supernatual so going by your argument it doesn't need a cause and it explains our universe. Or I could just say the universe as a whole is superntural, or the multiverse.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby telcontar42 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 1:18 am UTC

Variance wrote:
telcontar42 wrote:This isn't true. There are valid cosmological theories describing the universe coming into existence out of nothing. If I understand correctly, this is possible without violation of conservation of energy due to certain aspects of quantum mechanics. Here's an interview with a well respected cosmologist that explains this better than I can. The most relevant part is around 9:20.

This is the idea that time started at the Big Bang again. I don't know how this helps the argument that the Big Bang could have come about by itself; it just mandates that we ask how time, too, could have come about from nothing.

This is explained in the interview I linked. The idea is that the universe comes into existence as a quantum fluctuation. A cause is not necessary, it can happen spontaneously.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Variance » Sat Oct 31, 2009 2:25 am UTC

achan1058 wrote:There is nothing absolute that can be observed, unless you can somehow make every possible observation, at every possible moment of time. Otherwise, everything in science is about correlation. Nope, not even cause and effect, correlations. Uniformitarianism is merely a consequence of the observations which shows that things are consistent through time. There's a similar thread in the Science forum and we have already beat it to death. Anyways, I was talking about relativity, which I was using an example on how we can have incomplete understanding of the laws of nature.

Au contraire, mon frère.

Positive evidence means nothing for absolutes, as you said: observing that one of three marbles in a system is blue doesn't make the other three blue. Negative evidence, however, proves absolutes. To observe that none of the marbles is any color other than blue means that all the marbles are blue as an absolute.

To extend this to reality, if I observe that I am conscious, that does not prove that I really am. However, to observe that I cannot be in any other state than consciousness to observe an answer or question, and then extrapolate that the only possible answer is therefore that I am conscious, does prove it; this is the difference between negative and positive proof.

As for relativity, nothing is shown to violate the laws of conservation of momentum. Our understanding of parts of nature is changed, but axioms of existence and conservation of energy (nothing never becomes something) are not.

SpazzyMcGee wrote:2) Is that the your argument for why the universe is likely not cyclic? I take it you have never heard of M-Theory. Just because the universe as far we can tell is not going to "end" in a big crunch doesn't mean it is not cyclic.

I have, in fact, head of M-theory, thank you. I also know that it makes no claims defying the laws of conservation of energy. Universal generation theories may state that the Big Bang was caused by interaction between branes, but the branes themselves are still subject to entropy and subject to asking where the branes themselves came from.

1+2+3) You can't just arbitrarily say God is above causation but then just as arbitrarily say everything else must be caused. "His abilities didn't come about, that's why he is supernatural"... so what exactly is your definition of supernatural? Couldn't I just as arbitrarily say a supernatural tennis racket shaped universe making machine made everything? It's supernatual so going by your argument it doesn't need a cause and it explains our universe. Or I could just say the universe as a whole is superntural, or the multiverse.

I'm not arbitrarily saying that's how God is. I'm extrapolating his nature from that of the universe. If we observe that something supernatural must have created existence and come from nothing, God being able to violate cause and effect is required by our observations.

You could very well use any supernatural force you want, including your tennis racket. However, as for a multiverse, we observe no evidence for any parallel universes. Any hypothesized by string theory or quantum physics are hypothetical and cannot be observed even if they do exist; because of this, they are irrelevant. The relevant thing is our one universe. Also, may I add, String theory and its kin M-theory do not have particularly strong evidence. They are constructed science as opposed to derived science, which means that the creator thought it would make sense if everything were made of strings and branes and constructed a theory around that, only later finding out if it actually worked with physics or not (and has not been yet resolved). Derived theory is based wholly on empirical observations of the universe. String theory has had absolutely 0 experimental confirmations.

To quote an American Scientist article, "String theory not only makes no predictions about physical phenomena at experimentally accessible energies, it makes no precise predictions whatsoever. Even if someone were to figure out tomorrow how to build an accelerator capable of reaching the astronomically high energies at which particles are no longer supposed to appear as points, string theorists would be able to do no better than give qualitative guesses about what such a machine might show. At the moment string theory cannot be falsified by any conceivable experimental result."

So I would appreciate if we could drop string theory, or at least use quantum physics when trying to worm ways out of obeying conservation of energy. String theory just has no legitimacy due to being anything but confirmed.

telcontar42 wrote:This is explained in the interview I linked. The idea is that the universe comes into existence as a quantum fluctuation. A cause is not necessary, it can happen spontaneously.

I listened to the interview you linked. As I've noted above and in previous posts, none of these claims violate conservation of energy as is required to generate existence, and as I've comported to Yakk, "quantum fluctuations" require existing matter for fluctuating in the theory itself. That is, if you can even say that here is any strong basis behind all this science. The interview in question really just detailed the guy's opinions on metaphysics and the names and classifications systems he uses for phenomena.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby achan1058 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 3:07 am UTC

Variance wrote:Positive evidence means nothing for absolutes, as you said: observing that one of three marbles in a system is blue doesn't make the other three blue. Negative evidence, however, proves absolutes. To observe that none of the marbles is any color other than blue means that all the marbles are blue as an absolute.
Wrong. Positive evidence is a proof for absolute, if your are trying to prove "there exists", but not if you are trying to prove "for all". Conversely, negative evidence is an absolute proof against "for all", not a proof against "there exists". This is not only standard in mathematics, it is the same in science as well. Except in science, one can say something is very likely to happen by giving positive evidence towards an "for all" observation, which in mathematics will only be called a conjecture at the very most. For example, if my question is "There is at least 1 red marble", then observing 1 red marble, a positive observation, proves it. Anyways, the bigger problem is what I will state below. You have way more than 3 marbles in real life, that you cannot make observations against all of them. In particular, you cannot possibly observe that you are not in any other possible state.

Variance wrote:As for relativity, nothing is shown to violate the laws of conservation of momentum. Our understanding of parts of nature is changed, but axioms of existence and conservation of energy (nothing never becomes something) are not.
You clearly failed to understand my point. I was using that as an example of how our laws can be incomplete in understanding, to point out there is nothing guaranteeing that conservation of momentum and energy is absolute in all possible situations. We would postulate that it is, but we cannot guarantee it. Hell, we can't even guarantee it even under normal circumstances, since you cannot make all possible observations under all possible time in all possible places!! We can say it is true with very high probability, and use it as if it is always true, but we cannot guarantee it. If anyone can possibly give such a guarantee, he would have been world famous.

Honestly, I do not know what is your view point about, though I guess it hardly matters since I am only stating my argument against bad logic.
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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby telcontar42 » Sat Oct 31, 2009 3:19 am UTC

Variance wrote:
telcontar42 wrote:This is explained in the interview I linked. The idea is that the universe comes into existence as a quantum fluctuation. A cause is not necessary, it can happen spontaneously.

I listened to the interview you linked. As I've noted above and in previous posts, none of these claims violate conservation of energy as is required to generate existence, and as I've comported to Yakk, "quantum fluctuations" require existing matter for fluctuating in the theory itself. That is, if you can even say that here is any strong basis behind all this science. The interview in question really just detailed the guy's opinions on metaphysics and the names and classifications systems he uses for phenomena.

No, existing matter is not required for a quantum fluctuation to occur and these are not just metaphysical ideas.
http://www.mukto-mona.com/science/physics/a_vilinkin/universe_from_nothing.pdf
http://books.google.com/books?id=P2V1RbwvE1EC&lpg=PR9&ots=snx40hQeLp&dq=%22alan%20guth%22%20nothing%20universe%20creation&lr=&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q=&f=false
http://discovermagazine.com/2002/apr/cover

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Variance » Sun Nov 01, 2009 2:20 am UTC

achan1058 wrote:Wrong. Positive evidence is a proof for absolute, if your are trying to prove "there exists", but not if you are trying to prove "for all". Conversely, negative evidence is an absolute proof against "for all", not a proof against "there exists". This is not only standard in mathematics, it is the same in science as well. Except in science, one can say something is very likely to happen by giving positive evidence towards an "for all" observation, which in mathematics will only be called a conjecture at the very most. For example, if my question is "There is at least 1 red marble", then observing 1 red marble, a positive observation, proves it. Anyways, the bigger problem is what I will state below. You have way more than 3 marbles in real life, that you cannot make observations against all of them. In particular, you cannot possibly observe that you are not in any other possible state.

That's why I was talking about all objects across a system, and not individual objects. "For all." Negative evidence, as I explained, is proof for positive existence of an item in a system if it can be observed that there is no potential for the item to exist in any state but that which you are proving it to be in...therefore, if my question is "do horses exist as absolutes?", observing a horse to exist only establishes existence for the duration it is observed. However, when establishing that it exists when not observed by conservation laws, which are negative, we find that the horses continue to exist even when not observed. This existence absent perception is what defines an absolute: it exists unconditional of our perception, and is not a human construction. Therefore, its existence is relevant beyond our own perception and can be observed by other entities.

Consciousness works the same way. If you observe yourself to be conscious, you establish that as an absolute for the duration of observation, but you cannot prove that to me. However, were I to observe that you cannot exist in any other state than consciousness as a fellow man, an observation that can only be made by assuming religion as a negative guarantor of all humans being conscious by "having souls", then you could be proved conscious all of the time.

Cogito ergo sum and other personal observations work the same way. They are frame-based (time-irrelevant) absolutes, absolute while observed, but cannot be proved beyond your perception unless you assume the negative provisions of religion. Otherwise, by natural law, when you die, you consciousness loses absolute existence by losing existence of any type.
Variance wrote:As for relativity, nothing is shown to violate the laws of conservation of momentum. Our understanding of parts of nature is changed, but axioms of existence and conservation of energy (nothing never becomes something) are not.
You clearly failed to understand my point. I was using that as an example of how our laws can be incomplete in understanding, to point out there is nothing guaranteeing that conservation of momentum and energy is absolute in all possible situations. We would postulate that it is, but we cannot guarantee it. Hell, we can't even guarantee it even under normal circumstances, since you cannot make all possible observations under all possible time in all possible places!! We can say it is true with very high probability, and use it as if it is always true, but we cannot guarantee it. If anyone can possibly give such a guarantee, he would have been world famous.

Honestly, I do not know what is your view point about, though I guess it hardly matters since I am only stating my argument against bad logic.

Calm down, calm down. Although conservation laws, as with any laws derived from positive evidence, can not be said to be absolute, we assume them as axioms for science and discussion because there is no reason that we would anticipate them to change.

From the purely naturalistic perspective, there must be an exception made to the natural laws for the creation of the universe from nothing. You seek to include that in law; I see it as a supernatural exemption from law.

To clarify that, you are ruling out the possibility of anything supernatural ever existing by the fact that you would include it as natural were it ever proved to exist. This makes the assumption that it is impossible for anything to violate natural law, not because the law is absolute, but because the law encompasses all things that exist so anything that happens is automatically natural; an assumption just as egregious as assuming that natural law cannot be violated and is absolute. The core fallacy that you are presupposing is that all things cannot violate a law, because laws are inviolable and automatically include exceptions wherever something happens outside of the law.

You are assuming, therefore, that all things that exist are natural by definition, because you are extending your definition of natural to everything that exists, an assumption we cannot accept. We cannot presuppose that it is impossible for something supernatural to exist and violate the laws of nature.


Sorry, existing mass-energy of some type. These theories all assume preexisting manifolds and false vacuums to expand into.

Inflation theory, the apparent core of your citations, proposes (at least in Alan Guth's case, who coined "the ultimate free lunch") that an inflationary background full of gravitational potential and other force potential energy mediates inflation of potential to create matter as a result of potential being exercised by probability-based fluctuations, your "quantum fluctuations." Either way, it assumes the preexistence of potential energy, which we observe must have an origin itself. Their reasoning is that "Since X exists, there must have been a potential for X to exist given that it exists, so its existence proves the existence of its potential to exist. This potential to exist therefore allows X to spontaneously come into existence given the correct probability-based factors on the quantum level in an environment of potential energy." It seems almost like a massive exercise in circular argumentation.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby telcontar42 » Sun Nov 01, 2009 3:31 am UTC

Variance wrote:Sorry, existing mass-energy of some type. These theories all assume preexisting manifolds and false vacuums to expand into.

Ok, I'll agree that in these citations Guth is assuming the existence of a false vacuum. Vilenkin is not. He begins by discussing the typical inflationary theory with a false vacuum. He then says
In this paper I would like to suggest a new cosmological scenario in which the universe is spontaneously created from literally nothing, and which is free from the difficulties that I mentioned in the proceeding paragraph.
He then goes on to discuss the idea of the universe coming into existence through quantum tunneling from nothing. He compares this to the creation of a electron-positron pair. In his comparison he says
Of course, the probability P because the pair creation takes place in a background flat space. The instanton solution contributes to the imaginary part of the vacuum energy. Such a calculation does not make sense for our de Sitter instanton: it is silly to evaluate the imaginary part of nothing. The only relevant question seems to be whether or not the spontaneous creation of universes is possible. The existence of the instanton suggests that it is.
To be clear, he is indicating that a difference between this event and the particle-antiparticle creation is that instead of coming out of a vacuum, the universe is coming out of nothing.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Yakk » Sun Nov 01, 2009 3:48 am UTC

Variance wrote:Energy debt does not violate the laws of conservation of energy because a proportional amount of negative energy is created. Experiments relating to energy debt as seen in antimatter and matter eliminating each other don't show something coming from nothing; they show that the net balance of force in a system must come to 0 at some point. This does not apply to mass-energy opposing an opposite along an existence-based axis, it applies to polar forces opposing along a net-0 force-based axis.

You midunderstand. Antimatter has positive energy, as it has mass. Matter has positive energy, as it has mass.

We can create small regions of negative energy -- areas with less mass than zero -- experimentally right now.

And this isn't hocus pocus. It is called the Casimir effect.

Here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_effect

So, how can I put this .. the only thing weirder than modern Physics is that, when you solve the equations and get a simply insane answer, and you run an experiment, the experiment matches the insane predictions of the mathematics. The universe is really weird, and our knowledge of it admits some really strange possibilities.

Note that conservation of energy and momentum in the matter-antimatter case results in multiple photons being emitted when they annihilate. Conservation of energy when matter is created with sufficient energy debt results in matter being able to come out of nowhere.
You introduce momentum into a system when you push a floating thing into another. That you create a nonzero momentum is not relevant to these laws. The point is that momentum, once observed to exist, never goes away as a net quantity in a closed system. I threw in momentum as well because the universe is observed to have a non-zero net momentum, so given that as an effect, we wonder at the cause for the same reasons as we wonder why matter and energy exist.

I'm not sure what you mean by net momentum. By the meaning I'd ascribe to it, I would find it shocking if they managed to prove the universe has a non-zero net momentum. You claim this has been shown; how?

Or you you mean that the sum of the absolute momentums of particles remains constant? I wouldn't expect that to be true.
I want to emphasize that something cannot come from nothing. The emergence of spontaneous energy-debt particles is not a result of nothing: it is the result of something, the eigenstate system they are observed in and the observer. The only reason we can have such things happen is because of the preexisting positive nature of the system and observer.

You are presuming that the observer matters. There are interpretations of QM that are consistent with observations that do not give the observer a privileged place. Ie; giving the observer a place of privilege is a philosophical position, and conclusions drawn from it are philosophical claims, not scientific ones.
These laws are the natural laws. If a supernatural force could be scientifically proven, it would be integrated into science; however, the distinction between natural and supernatural would still exist.

Take, for instance, the Christian God. He guarantees eternal life, which is refuted as unnatural by entropy. However, were he to be proven to exist, the reality would be that you can violate the natural laws. This does not change the fact that the natural laws are correct insofar as they apply to nature and are still absolutes for nature. When something supernatural happens, we don't need to change the laws to include an exception: we need to recognize a supernatural exception that should not be considered or included in the context of natural law, because we know that nature, being limited by entropy and conservation of energy, cannot reproduce something from nothing.

No, we don't know that nature conserves energy, or that entropy always increases.

We have strong evidence that nature conserves energy, or that entropy always increases.

If it turns out that we discover that this isn't true, that doesn't mean we have found something unnatural -- it just means our theory turned out not be right.

Entropy and the Conservation of Energy are observations about the universe. We call them laws because we are pretty damn sure they hold up.

If someone does produce a way to reduce Entropy, that doesn't make it supernatural. It is just surprising; and hence very interesting!
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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby achan1058 » Sun Nov 01, 2009 4:13 am UTC

@Variance:

I agree with Yakk, I cannot accept your arbitrary definition of natural/supernatural by taking a certain subset of scientific correlations (ie. laws) as axioms. If I am to follow your idea, I could have taking Newton's laws of motion as my axiom, and call Relativity supernatural, which is clearly absurd. Note that there's nothing stopping me to do such a thing, since in the 1850's, they hold up as much as the conversation laws, according to the observations back then.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Keybounce » Sun Nov 01, 2009 8:28 pm UTC

Let me ask a different track.

If the presence of a "nothing" means the existence of a completely void, empty region, then in classical mechanics such a thing is possible -- space is a passive arena in which things happen. But since relativity, spacetime isn't, and can't be like that.

So within our spacetime, you cannot have a nothing.

What about in that location where our spacetime exists? What exists between the branes of m-theory?
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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Cold » Tue Nov 03, 2009 7:31 am UTC

There wouldn't have been 'nothing'. There'd have been...space. Like deep space, except with even less anything in it.
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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Variance » Wed Nov 04, 2009 3:54 am UTC

Oh, come on. I thought I posted on Sunday. Now I have to write everything over again.
telcontar42 wrote:
Variance wrote:Sorry, existing mass-energy of some type. These theories all assume preexisting manifolds and false vacuums to expand into.

Ok, I'll agree that in these citations Guth is assuming the existence of a false vacuum. Vilenkin is not. He begins by discussing the typical inflationary theory with a false vacuum. He then says
In this paper I would like to suggest a new cosmological scenario in which the universe is spontaneously created from literally nothing, and which is free from the difficulties that I mentioned in the proceeding paragraph.
He then goes on to discuss the idea of the universe coming into existence through quantum tunneling from nothing. He compares this to the creation of a electron-positron pair. In his comparison he says
Of course, the probability P because the pair creation takes place in a background flat space. The instanton solution contributes to the imaginary part of the vacuum energy. Such a calculation does not make sense for our de Sitter instanton: it is silly to evaluate the imaginary part of nothing. The only relevant question seems to be whether or not the spontaneous creation of universes is possible. The existence of the instanton suggests that it is.
To be clear, he is indicating that a difference between this event and the particle-antiparticle creation is that instead of coming out of a vacuum, the universe is coming out of nothing.

He's still presuming the 4-sphere with angular potential momentum. Given the sphere has no previous state to return to, he says that it cannot be affected by entropy which demands that the sphere return to a ground state; however, what he's missing is that that's not a part of the law of entropy, but a corollary to entropy in physical observations. Entropy does not require that the 4-sphere have a state to return to at maximum entropy.

Yakk wrote:You midunderstand. Antimatter has positive energy, as it has mass. Matter has positive energy, as it has mass.

We can create small regions of negative energy -- areas with less mass than zero -- experimentally right now.

And this isn't hocus pocus. It is called the Casimir effect.

Here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_effect

So, how can I put this .. the only thing weirder than modern Physics is that, when you solve the equations and get a simply insane answer, and you run an experiment, the experiment matches the insane predictions of the mathematics. The universe is really weird, and our knowledge of it admits some really strange possibilities.

Note that conservation of energy and momentum in the matter-antimatter case results in multiple photons being emitted when they annihilate. Conservation of energy when matter is created with sufficient energy debt results in matter being able to come out of nowhere.

Oh jeez, I knew i shouldn't have used antimatter-matter reactions. I anticipated you might think I was confusing it with virtual particle pairs. Believe me, I wasn't. I know the difference; I was just using matter and antimatter to illustrate how a system must return to a ground charge state distributed evenly across space by the law of Entropy.

Anyway, as for the Casimir Effect, I fail to see how your argument is supported. Nothing comes from "nothing" in the Casimir effect; its a quantum distribution of force potential acting between bosons in the place of leptons, given that the leptons are in near charge-agreement in the state of the two metal plates. So the bosons, which mediate mass interaction, develop a well of quantum force-potential that follows the lines of the force they mediate, which causes a sort of "antigravity field" composed of virtual photons.

However, as of late, experiments have been showing that the Casimir effect can also be interpreted as the sole effect of Van der Waals forces. Still, it has nothing to do with spontaneous generation of anything.
I'm not sure what you mean by net momentum. By the meaning I'd ascribe to it, I would find it shocking if they managed to prove the universe has a non-zero net momentum. You claim this has been shown; how?

Or you you mean that the sum of the absolute momentums of particles remains constant? I wouldn't expect that to be true.

Net momentum is the global sum of vector momentum in a system. It can only be positive because it is relative to nothing, being derived from Distance/Time.

This hasn't been "shown", it's definitional. The net momentum in a system does stay the same by conservation of momentum.
You are presuming that the observer matters. There are interpretations of QM that are consistent with observations that do not give the observer a privileged place. Ie; giving the observer a place of privilege is a philosophical position, and conclusions drawn from it are philosophical claims, not scientific ones.

Rather, nothing matters without an observer, but that's beside the point: the system is still necessary in QM.
No, we don't know that nature conserves energy, or that entropy always increases.

We have strong evidence that nature conserves energy, or that entropy always increases.

If it turns out that we discover that this isn't true, that doesn't mean we have found something unnatural -- it just means our theory turned out not be right.

Entropy and the Conservation of Energy are observations about the universe. We call them laws because we are pretty damn sure they hold up.

If someone does produce a way to reduce Entropy, that doesn't make it supernatural. It is just surprising; and hence very interesting!

I think I have to ask you the same question I asked SpazzyMcgee: Is it possible for a supernatural force to exist?

You would probably say yes, but it's unlikely.

However, you assume otherwise. Were anything to be observed at all, it would be integrated into natural law, as you've said, even if it were an exception to an otherwise good law. The problem with this is that you extend nature to all of existence and squeeze out the possibility of anything supernatural existing. You are assuming, in effect, that anything that can be observed is natural and must be integrated into the laws of science.

Your mistake is that in doing this, you assume the same laws apply to all of existence, so as exception must be made to a law covering everything when something doesn't follow the law everyone else has to follow.

So I ask you: Is it possible for a being to have a separate set of laws that apply to it, and in essence be supernatural? Or are the laws of nature one-size-fits-all, as is shown when we try to incorporate bizarre exceptions into otherwise credible laws.

achan1058 wrote:@Variance:

I agree with Yakk, I cannot accept your arbitrary definition of natural/supernatural by taking a certain subset of scientific correlations (ie. laws) as axioms. If I am to follow your idea, I could have taking Newton's laws of motion as my axiom, and call Relativity supernatural, which is clearly absurd. Note that there's nothing stopping me to do such a thing, since in the 1850's, they hold up as much as the conversation laws, according to the observations back then.

Actually, you can be the third person I ask the question. See my paragraphs above in the post.

Keybounce wrote:Let me ask a different track.

If the presence of a "nothing" means the existence of a completely void, empty region, then in classical mechanics such a thing is possible -- space is a passive arena in which things happen. But since relativity, spacetime isn't, and can't be like that.

So within our spacetime, you cannot have a nothing.

What about in that location where our spacetime exists? What exists between the branes of m-theory?

Spacetime doesn't really exist independently of anything. As shown in quantum mechanics, forces previously thought to be waves in spacetime are better described as interactions between force-carrying particles. So without any matter or energy in the universe, spacetime wouldn't really exist or have meaning, so nothing would then exist.

As for string/m-theory, it's all constructed theory. They've been getting less credible over the years, but I don't know if there's supposed to be anything the branes are in.

Cold wrote:There wouldn't have been 'nothing'. There'd have been...space. Like deep space, except with even less anything in it.

Space with nothing in it is the definition of nothing. If you define nothing as a system with no contents, and then have a system without contents (empty space), it is nothing by the definition of nothing.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Yakk » Wed Nov 04, 2009 5:34 am UTC

A law that doesn't explain observations is flawed.

It is possible that there are phenomena in the universe that make what we think are 'laws' to be fundamentally flawed. As a non-supernatural example, our ability to predict the behavior of complex systems sucks; using our fundamental laws to predict what book a human being will choose to read is not possible.

It could turn out that what we thought where simple situations -- two-body gravity problems, relatively isolated electron-proton bindings, etc -- are actually ridiculously complex, and any laws that predict what actually happen may be beyond our ability to describe or resolve. Imagine if it turns out that predicting the behavior of an electron-positron pair required as much work as determining (from first principles mind you) where, exactly, a human being will itch in 10 years. What we have been experiencing, reality-wise, just was a period in which reality was both highly predictable and simple.

So yes, there can be things that are indescribable by anything similar to human science. We are aware of them; what we have done is taken parts of reality, and found the parts that behave predictably and relatively simply in our experience, and called those fundamental. Then used that knowledge to build approximations of things too complex for us to describe with similar levels of fidelity (with surprising success).

You could call something we cannot describe or predict supernatural.

Natural Law, to me, is something humans have described, not something that 'exists'. For all we know, all of reality is a side effect of some more fundamental reality, and many such side effects exist, and as it happens one of them has been stable over a large enough 'area' that it has given rise to patterns which observe their reality and write laws about it.

See stones in the desert.

Now, this might be somewhat unreasonable; the laws we have found are too cool to be "mere accidents" perhaps. That would be interesting; could there be a connection between "cool" laws of reality and self aware patterns being able to observe them? :)

But this is getting off topic. In short; no, if it turns out that energy isn't conserved, that doesn't mean we have discovered a supernatural force. If it turns out entropy isn't conserved, that doesn't mean we have discovered a supernatural force. If it turns out that tomorrow we can no longer predict the behavior of electrons in experiments, then science is in trouble; but the cause need not be 'supernatural' other than in label.
law of Entropy

The law of Entropy is the observation that more likely results happen more often, together with the (unsubstantiatable) claim that the past was less likely than the future. :-)

Your philosophical law of Entropy seems strange to me.
Net momentum is the global sum of vector momentum in a system. It can only be positive because it is relative to nothing, being derived from Distance/Time.
Then two stationary things can move apart from each other without violating conservation of momentum? I don't understand your objection.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby ATCG » Wed Nov 04, 2009 8:47 pm UTC

This discussion revisits the subject of a thread in the Science forum from just over a month ago.

Invoking conservation of matter/energy to refute Alex Vilenkin's idea of a universe created from nothing is problematical. While this might be straightforward in flat spacetime, talking about energy conservation in curved spacetime is a lot trickier - and a highly curved spacetime is very much what Vilenkin has in mind for his quantum tunneling epoch. Under at least one definition of energy in general relativity (and there are, in fact, multiple definitions), the energy of a closed universe is always zero - not to say that that this is the appropriate definition in this case, but merely that classical physical intuitions become treacherous once general relativity (especially when aided and abetted by quantum mechanics) enters the picture.

Vilenkin's model is consistent with physical law as currently understood and gets rid of the pesky singularity at t=0 in the bargain. None of this necessarily makes it correct, but it will take something more substantial than energy conservation to dismiss it.

And I admit to being unable to decipher the argument that entropy has anything to do with any of this.

Cosmologists have been prolific in coming up with ingenious models of the origins of the universe. Deep mysteries certainly remain, but there's been no shortage of ideas for addressing them. The problem has yet to appear that is so intractable as to demand a supernatural solution.
"The age of the universe is 100 billion, if the units are dog years." - Sean Carroll

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Ivora » Thu Nov 05, 2009 3:33 am UTC

This sounds like one of those riddles. If a tree falls etc. :roll:

I think probably so, but we can't prove or disprove it. Yay! :D

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Variance » Fri Nov 06, 2009 10:41 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:A law that doesn't explain observations is flawed.

It is possible that there are phenomena in the universe that make what we think are 'laws' to be fundamentally flawed. As a non-supernatural example, our ability to predict the behavior of complex systems sucks; using our fundamental laws to predict what book a human being will choose to read is not possible.

It could turn out that what we thought where simple situations -- two-body gravity problems, relatively isolated electron-proton bindings, etc -- are actually ridiculously complex, and any laws that predict what actually happen may be beyond our ability to describe or resolve. Imagine if it turns out that predicting the behavior of an electron-positron pair required as much work as determining (from first principles mind you) where, exactly, a human being will itch in 10 years. What we have been experiencing, reality-wise, just was a period in which reality was both highly predictable and simple.

So yes, there can be things that are indescribable by anything similar to human science. We are aware of them; what we have done is taken parts of reality, and found the parts that behave predictably and relatively simply in our experience, and called those fundamental. Then used that knowledge to build approximations of things too complex for us to describe with similar levels of fidelity (with surprising success).

You could call something we cannot describe or predict supernatural.

Natural Law, to me, is something humans have described, not something that 'exists'. For all we know, all of reality is a side effect of some more fundamental reality, and many such side effects exist, and as it happens one of them has been stable over a large enough 'area' that it has given rise to patterns which observe their reality and write laws about it.

See stones in the desert.

Now, this might be somewhat unreasonable; the laws we have found are too cool to be "mere accidents" perhaps. That would be interesting; could there be a connection between "cool" laws of reality and self aware patterns being able to observe them? :)

But this is getting off topic. In short; no, if it turns out that energy isn't conserved, that doesn't mean we have discovered a supernatural force. If it turns out entropy isn't conserved, that doesn't mean we have discovered a supernatural force. If it turns out that tomorrow we can no longer predict the behavior of electrons in experiments, then science is in trouble; but the cause need not be 'supernatural' other than in label.

Actually, let me make the question more specific: can a something exist with a separate body of laws applicable to it? Because it seems foolish to say natural laws must apply to all things. Rather, we could define nature as, say, that which follows Cause and Effect, and define "Supernature" as that which does not.

That seems more sensible than making an exception in a law which is otherwise good.

law of Entropy

The law of Entropy is the observation that more likely results happen more often, together with the (unsubstantiatable) claim that the past was less likely than the future. :-)

Your philosophical law of Entropy seems strange to me.

That's not the Law of Entropy at all. I'm not quite sure where you're going.

Entropy states that an ordered system will, over time, trend to a disordered and homogenized system full of scattered and low-energy mass-energy. Essentially, a system with 0 potential energy.
Net momentum is the global sum of vector momentum in a system. It can only be positive because it is relative to nothing, being derived from Distance/Time.
Then two stationary things can move apart from each other without violating conservation of momentum? I don't understand your objection.

If two things are stationary and begin moving away from each other, that's a change in real momentum, not net momentum. If we have two electron next to each other, and they begin without momentum, they push each other away and gain momentum.

Conservation of energy is not violated, though, because the initial state of the electrons being next to each other is one of force potential energy, which changes to momentum energy. This requires a previous input of energy. Conservation of momentum is not applicable here, though, because the initial momentum of the system is not defined. Once the electrons move away from each other and their momentum increases, the net momentum becomes defined and does not change.

Essentially, two repelling bodies right next to each other would generate opposing force and direct their momentum away from each other, but as their real momentum decreases, their momentum potential increases. There is no differentiation between the two in Conservation of momentum, so the sum of the real momentum and potential momentum remains constant.

ATCG wrote:This discussion revisits the subject of a thread in the Science forum from just over a month ago.

Invoking conservation of matter/energy to refute Alex Vilenkin's idea of a universe created from nothing is problematical. While this might be straightforward in flat spacetime, talking about energy conservation in curved spacetime is a lot trickier - and a highly curved spacetime is very much what Vilenkin has in mind for his quantum tunneling epoch. Under at least one definition of energy in general relativity (and there are, in fact, multiple definitions), the energy of a closed universe is always zero - not to say that that this is the appropriate definition in this case, but merely that classical physical intuitions become treacherous once general relativity (especially when aided and abetted by quantum mechanics) enters the picture.

Vilenkin's model is consistent with physical law as currently understood and gets rid of the pesky singularity at t=0 in the bargain. None of this necessarily makes it correct, but it will take something more substantial than energy conservation to dismiss it.

And I admit to being unable to decipher the argument that entropy has anything to do with any of this.

Cosmologists have been prolific in coming up with ingenious models of the origins of the universe. Deep mysteries certainly remain, but there's been no shortage of ideas for addressing them. The problem has yet to appear that is so intractable as to demand a supernatural solution.


I'm not trying to refute the argument by conservation of energy as much as I'm saying that even Vilkenin assumes certain prerequisites in his theory, such as a 4-sphere spacetime anomaly with quantum potential energy that could cause tunneling. We ask where the mechanisms that trigger the tunneling, the hyper spherical spacetime and its energy, come from themselves.

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby ATCG » Sat Nov 07, 2009 12:26 am UTC

Variance wrote:I'm not trying to refute the argument [Alex Vilenkin's idea of "creation of universes from nothing"] by conservation of energy as much as I'm saying that even Vilkenin assumes certain prerequisites in his theory, such as a 4-sphere spacetime anomaly with quantum potential energy that could cause tunneling. We ask where the mechanisms that trigger the tunneling, the hyper spherical spacetime and its energy, come from themselves.

I'll let Vilenkin answer for himself:
Alex Vilenkin, in Many Worlds in One, p. 181, wrote:If there was nothing before the universe popped out, then what could have caused the tunneling? Remarkably, the answer is that no cause is required. In classical physics, causality dictates what happens from one moment to the next, but in quantum mechanics the behavior of physical objects is inherently unpredictable and some quantum processes have no cause at all. Take, for example, a radioactive atom. It has some probability of decaying, which is the same from this minute to the next. Eventually, it will decay, but there will be nothing that causes it to decay at that particular moment. Nucleation of the universe is also a quantum process and does not require a cause.
"The age of the universe is 100 billion, if the units are dog years." - Sean Carroll

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Re: can "nothing" exist?

Postby Yakk » Sun Nov 08, 2009 2:08 am UTC

Variance wrote:Actually, let me make the question more specific: can a something exist with a separate body of laws applicable to it? Because it seems foolish to say natural laws must apply to all things. Rather, we could define nature as, say, that which follows Cause and Effect, and define "Supernature" as that which does not.

That seems more sensible than making an exception in a law which is otherwise good.

Then Quantum Mechanics is Supernatural. Which makes your definition quite questionable (things happen in QM without a cause).

law of Entropy

The law of Entropy is the observation that more likely results happen more often, together with the (unsubstantiatable) claim that the past was less likely than the future. :-)

Your philosophical law of Entropy seems strange to me.

That's not the Law of Entropy at all. I'm not quite sure where you're going.

Entropy states that an ordered system will, over time, trend to a disordered and homogenized system full of scattered and low-energy mass-energy. Essentially, a system with 0 potential energy.

Then your law of Entropy isn't true. With reasonable assumptions, a bunch of particles in a closed system will enter (basically) every state an infinite number of times.

Here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entropy_%2 ... _theory%29 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poincar%C3 ... ce_theorem

All observations assigned to the law of Entropy can be explained by the information theoretical Entropy, and it also permits the observation of closed systems that "go the wrong way". All the information theory of entropy needs is a highly ordered starting state, and the entropic arrow of time can be derived.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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