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An Exercise in nothing semantics.

  1. Mar 17, 2003 #1
    An Exercise in "nothing" semantics.

    I apologize for not being able to include the responses, in fact my computer is moving so slowly that I'm not going to be able to copy the exact original post.

    The point was this: If you take a sentence, where the word "nothing" is used, and replace "nothing" with "not anything", the result gives the same meaning as the original, but it doesn't allow for foolish contemplation of what "nothing" is.

    An example would be... "The universe is expanding into nothing" = "The universe is not expanding into anything". The same meaning, and yet it eliminates the need for poinless debates about the "nothing" that the universe is expanding into.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 17, 2003 #2
    Re: An Exercise in "nothing" semantics.

    It would be nice to get into this discussion "tableu blanc" but, I remember some of it and I remember you stating that the universe is expanding into the universe.

    Are you stating that the universe is "not anything" with your example? Or is it a purely hypothetical and didactic statement that has "much adeu about nothing"?
  4. Mar 17, 2003 #3
    Re: Re: An Exercise in "nothing" semantics.

    Actually, it was carl (you?), who said that the view is usually that the universe is expanding into the universe. I have never said that. I said that the expansion of the universe is merely a "broadening of it's horizons", and that discussion of what it was "expanding into" was moot.

    Side Note: In other threads, I also made mention of the point that "universe" means "everything", and thus it makes no sense to say that universe is expanding "into something", because there would be nothing (or "there wouldn't be anything") outside of it.
  5. Mar 17, 2003 #4
    Re: Re: Re: An Exercise in "nothing" semantics.

    Hi Mentat, OK, yes its me.

    How do you define "broaden". How can we put an horizon on an infinite universe? Perhaps you don't see the universe as infinite?
  6. Mar 17, 2003 #5
    When we talk about the universe expanding, we simply mean that the distances between points in space time are increasing. There is no requirement for it to be expanding into a larger space, since all space exists within the universe. Therefore, "the universe isn't expanding into anything" is good word usage. Distances are simply increasing between objects. That's what it means.
  7. Mar 18, 2003 #6
    So the space is already there, meaning the Universe is expanding into empty space?
  8. Mar 18, 2003 #7
    muhahaha IM BACK *comes riding in looking all majestic and stuff*


    CJames, your definition of expansion is not expansion, it is just movement in a defined area. Unless youmean to say tat all matter, energy, ect. is infinite. In which case this is against the BB theory since there, at some point, was a starting point for the expansion and a defined condensed area in which it started. Perhaps I misread what you are explaining.

    Iacchus32, use Mentats way and say that the Universe is expanding into not a thing.

    Mentat said:
    I would say "The Universe is expading into not a thing". Your example makes it sound like the universe is not expanding. ut we all know what you meant.
  9. Mar 18, 2003 #8
    Re: Re: Re: Re: An Exercise in "nothing" semantics.

    Hey carl, good to see you, again :smile:. Cool new name.

    When I say "broaden", I mean basically what CJames said (in his post). That all parts of it are getting farther apart. But when I say "broadening it's horizons", I make specific reference to the edge of the universe (as I do not believe that the universe is infinite).
  10. Mar 18, 2003 #9
    Actually, Ishop, I worded it as I did purposefully. You see, a big problem with the question, "what is the universe expanding into", is that it implies that the universe is - in fact - expanding into something. I am saying that it is expanding into nothing, or (better phrased...) it is not expanding into anything.
  11. Mar 18, 2003 #10
    No, once again it is not expanding into anything.

    It is not expansion in the way we commonly interpret it, but it is what is meant by the expansion of the universe. Any two points in spacetime are moving away from each other. That is the expansion of the universe. A universe of infinite size does not defy the big bang theory, nor is it required for this sort of expansion to work. Is there a topic on this yet in astronomy? If so, you should look it up, as this is the philosophy section.
  12. Mar 18, 2003 #11
    No, Iacchus32, if you re-read my post, you'll see that the theory is that the universe in not expanding into anything.
  13. Mar 18, 2003 #12
    So if the universe is expanding into nothing,then the longer it keeps happening the soon will cease to exist when we to become nothing!just a little joke!if we exist in space ,the matter that exists in space takes space to occuppyit.how could a universe full of empty space expanding outward to take space itself to do it.the universe occuppies space to,so we must be expanding in something that has space too,because you cant have space on the inside and not on the outside!
  14. Mar 18, 2003 #13
    Yes, you can, and that's the point. There is nothing outside of everything (read "there isn't anything outside of 'everything'"), and so it is - in fact - impossible for the universe to be expanding into more of anything.
  15. Mar 18, 2003 #14


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    Re: An Exercise in "nothing" semantics.

    Indeed the nominalization of the negative action is a well known falacy. It is evident for infinite sets, where while it can be proved easily that some concrete element is not in the (finite or infinite) set A, it is a whole big logical jump to believe in the existence of "the set whose elements are not in the set A". It amounts to believe in the closed existence of "the set of everything", so you can substract A from the Total.

    A relationship between linguistics and politics is stablished by some thinkers by noticing that while "no thing" is an action, dynamical, "nothing" is a noun, static. Thus nominalization allows for burocratical tasks, classification, etc. and then also allows for freezing and stagnancy of a society. In this point of view the fallacy comes from believing in the closed existence of "the reality" as, say, a set of all the existing things. The fallacy, by the way, applies to more specific examples. The most popular in politics could be to identify "we want no social order!" with "we want social disorders". But one can do it with almost every action.
  16. Mar 18, 2003 #15
    Re: Re: An Exercise in "nothing" semantics.

    Good comparison .
  17. Mar 18, 2003 #16


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    This subject came up on the old board. Maybe a URL might help clear things up. [Removed Broken Link]
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 17, 2017
  18. Mar 18, 2003 #17
    arguements on the Big Bang theory aside, if what you describe is the "space" between objects changing is the expanding universe, then you are still describing space as "not a thing" (nothing). This bolds well for the arguement that there is a "nothing". An area defined by the lack of something. It is a negative property and therefore can exsist. Just as dark exsist. Even thouh dark is only defined by lack of light, nothing is defined as lack of exsistence. No one argues that there is no dark. Now the only problem is that people see the word "nothing" as a noun because we treat it as so in our language. But we use the word "dark" as an adjective to describe a noun. This confuses people into thinking that "nothing cannot be a something therefore there cannot be a nothing because it cannot be something". Obviously this is just a play on words and ignores the concept and definition of nothing. The truth is "nothing" is a adjective that is spoken in the nouns place. The noun is area. So instead of saying there is not a thing in this area. You say there is nothing here. Nothing meaning: not a thing in this area. So, even your explaination of expansion requires there to be a nothing. This then makes the arguement of "is the universe expanding or simply moving away from eachother" mute. Both arguements require a "not a thing area" to exsist.

    I also know that many of you are just itching to reply with "area requires measurements, you cannot measure "not a thing"". Here is your answer to that. Take dark. We say a room is dark. Why does the dark stop? Did we measure dark? No, we simply measured where the light ended. If there is 2 meters in which light does not exsist, we say the dark is 2 meters long. The dark is not measured, the lght is in a negative way in order to define the dark. The same concept applies with nothing.
  19. Mar 18, 2003 #18


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    Actually, space is a field, which is just as physical as matter. But you can really call it anything you want.

    You can call space chocolate for all it matters, the area is still a field whether or not matter is present. The question is, why call matter a thing, and a field not anything? In terms of geometry, they are quite similar.

    And that again illustrates my question. Why call an an empty area of the gravitational field nothing, while calling matter something? What makes matter so special that it should be called a thing, while fields should not?

    If you want to refer to a vacuum (absence of matter) as nothing, fine. But even that won't work, because QM forbids the existence such vacuums. At every point in the universe, there seems to be at least a small amount of energy present. What then?
  20. Mar 18, 2003 #19
    Ishop, if you are trying to say that the volume of empty space in the universe is rising, it is. So if you call empty space nothing, there you go. But the nothingness we refer to here is absolute nothing. The universe isn't expanding into anything, because there is no thing for the universe to expand into. It is simply expanding.
  21. Mar 19, 2003 #20
    CJames, when I say nothing I mean nothing. Not a thing. Absolute nothing in your words. I agree with your last two sentences. I hate the word "space". I mean "space" to be an area. If I say a space with no thing, that is an area in which not a thing exsist. I do not mean the "space a final frontier". Or outside of Earths Atmosphere. I think we agree in our outlooks, you might have taken something wrong that I said.

    Eh, you said that expansion is exsisting things seperating not really expanding. Now you say that there are fields (gravitational) that are in between these objects. I agree that a gravitational field is something, but now your idea of expansion is collapsing (excuse the pun). If you have item "A" and item "B" seperating, then you are saying there is a gravitaional field in between them. I'll accept that. But that is not expansion, that is growth. What you are saying is at one point A and B have a field that is 1 meter long between them, a few hours later they have a field that is 2 meters between them. You see this is growth of exsistence, not expansion and not expansion according to the Big Bang Theory. What you describe is much like dirt particles in a glass of water. particle A and B are seperating but have water (field) in between them and that the water is growing. Although it may look like expansion, this is actually growth. The water would be growing not expanding. What expansion would be is dumping the water on the floor. The water would then expand along with the dirt particles. That is expansion. I'll meet you half way though. I see growing gravitaional fields, so I will say that the water is growing and the water is spilled. I think this is an accurate analogy of our universe. However in order to say that anything is expanding there must be a way to measure that. If it is measurable then it is not infinite. A finite universe must yield to the idea that there is not a thing somewhere.

    QM does not forbid the concept of a vacum. There is a vacum between Atoms and electrons.
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