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If the universe came from nothing

  1. Apr 28, 2007 #1
    Assuming that the universe came from nothing as an absolute fact, for the sake of discussion.

    If the universe came from nothing. Doesn't this mean that the universe cannot be a physical entity? Are we not forced to assume that the universe is conceptual in nature? That the fundamentals of existence are no more than discrete conceptual geometrics of nothing?
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  3. Apr 28, 2007 #2
    No. It just gives a different meaning to the concept of "physical entity".

    If you stop to think about it, you don't really know what "physical" means anyway, so it's not much of a change.

    Many people are tempted to think so. I fell under the same illusion once, but as I examined it I realized it was really just an illusion.

    The problem has to do with your knowledge of language. It's not too difficult to give a slightly different meaning to a certain concept, and then watch how it seems to radically change the meaning of several other concepts. But the problem is, eventually you have to find out how all concepts you currently know are affected by that change, and you end up realizing you haven't discovered anything new, you have simply invented a new language.

    Ah, but they must be different or the concept of "concept" becomes meaningless! Saying everything is a concept is equivalent to saying everything is a thing. You are just giving the word a meaning for which another word already exists.
  4. Apr 28, 2007 #3
    If "nothings" can be MEASURED and compared with other "nothings",then we have structure of some sort.As Eddington says in his his masterpiece "The Mathematical Theory of Relativity",1923 and 1930,2nd Ed."If nothing in the world is comparable to anything else,there cannot even be the rudiments of structure,...".Eddington went on,latter in his career,to worry about just what it is that we are identifying with our measurements,is it the "external world",or is it just those "things" our brains expect to find???.
  5. Apr 28, 2007 #4
    Also,Pascaul Jordan,in the 1940's,came up with the notion that the entire mass/energy content of the Universe may be due SOLEY to its own negative gravitational potential energy.Something on the road to the nothing-idea.
  6. Apr 28, 2007 #5
    I look at physical as being a billiard ball approach, and I can't see billiard balls emanating from nothing. Nothing is a conceptual beast that would require a non-physical approach to form reality, given that we assume the universe came from nothing. An important word here is form, (a geometric with no physical characteristics) i.e. a thought. These geometric forms of nothing are the base constituent of the universe. They operate like yes, no, if, then, statements of a computer. I see no problems creating a universe from nothing with this approach. In this respect all forms in our universe represent the geometric embodiment of nothing.
  7. Apr 28, 2007 #6


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    This is just an analogy, simply to make a point:

    That billiard ball is also something that we, in our day-to-day existence think of as a solid object. But that's only from the point of view of something that is about 10^33 times larger than it needs to be to observer that a billiard ball is actually 99.9999999% empty space. A billiard ball isn't really a billiard ball at all. The essence of physicality is simply not something we can observe or conceive of casually. We have to look extremely carefully to see what our reality really is - and throw away our caveman instincts about it. And that is true both at the atomic scale and at the cosmic scale.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2007
  8. Apr 29, 2007 #7
    My point is that if the universe came from nothing, that even the .0000001% is empty. I.E. no billiard of any size is possible.
  9. Apr 29, 2007 #8


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    This is why I'm saying it's just an analogy. I'm not comparing an empty atom to an atom that came from nothing, I'm saying you aleady accept that certain things in your personal experience are not at all as straightforward as your senses would have you believe.

    You have a 21st century knowledge of matter that a 19th century person would find ridiculously woo-woo-like. They would say "how can you have a block of wood made out of 99.9999% vacuum??" But you would say to them: "Your concept of 'matter' is hopelessly primitive. no wonder you can't even explain such simple things as radioactivity".

    Just like you know that "matter" is more complicated than a block of wood, so you shouldn't have difficulty knowing that "nothingness" is more complicated than simply the absence of something. And that somethingness is more complicated than just a bunch of atoms floating about the univese.
  10. Apr 29, 2007 #9
    This assumption cannot be made, not even for the sake of discussion. To illustrate, consider this: "assume that true is false, for the sake of discussion". This phrase is meaningless because is it self-contradictory. If something can come from nothing then nothing must have the property of permitting it. But "nothing" cannot have any property. If you have properties then you have something instead of nothing. You can't reach any conclusion from a self-contradicting premise.
  11. Apr 29, 2007 #10
    I think by "nothing" most people understand the complete absence of matter. And I think it's not only possible to make that assumption, I don't even see any other alternative.

    I don't think that is the correct definition of nothing. I believe it simply means the absence of anything we could call a thing. Which begs the question, what exactly is a "thing"? We talk about it all the time but do we really know what a "thing" is? And can we say for sure there is never a point in time in which "things" did not exist?

    So in the beginning there was nothing, but that created a paradox and the universe exploded as a solution. I've heard several theories along those lines. Not sure they make much sense, but they seem inevitable if we start from your premises.
  12. Apr 29, 2007 #11
    if people mean by "nothing" as the non-existence of objective things. If by objective things, we mean things that has a property of a quentifiable nature. If by quentifiable, we mean things that can be indirect understood by our theory, or that something `s existence is indicated by our experiment.

    1) the laws of nature are statements that refer these objective things.

    2) We understand our universe throught our sense, and physical models.


    Claim 1: science cannot tell us why there is something instead of nothing.

    Claim 2: Since all we know is that there is always something, then we might as well suppose that always was something.

    claim 3: we are justified in the belief that the universe came out of something.
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2007
  13. Apr 29, 2007 #12
    So you're saying that the universe can't come from nothing? That the universe had no beginning?

    If so - then the universe has always been. Not for x number of years, but for an infinity of years. Yet here we are as time passes, which implies an incomplete infinity, which brings us back to ...... the universe had a beginning and that it came from nothing.

    I happen to think that contradiction is a requirement to existence. The universe is essentially at it's base foundation, ones and zeros .... a contradiction.
  14. Apr 30, 2007 #13
    Maybe. I haven't done a survey to see how most people interpret the word. But if different people have different interpretations then of course the statement remains undefined so we still cannot reach a conclusion. There is also a problem with the word "matter" since I've seen people disagree on its meaning and some also argue that material reality is only a perception. To me, "nothing" applies whenever whatever you are talking about doesn't exist.

    Keep looking! Not seeing one doesn't mean there's isn't one unless you can somehow demonstrate that there cannot be any.

    I see that you realize the difficulty in defining a "thing" which would in turn define what is material. Is energy something? Is a force something? I think they are, at least in the sense that we can talk about them. In the context of this discussion, if we said that the universe began with some energy or with a force then it would still not explain the origin of this energy or force, so we would be no further ahead.

    I think you will recognize that this scenario is gratuitous. It lacks a clear rationale.

    Claim 1 is right, science simply does not lend itself to answer the question of the origin. It is the wrong method to address what does not exist since it only deals with the natural world, which exists. Science is pragmatic, not philosophical.

    Claim 2 is a scientifically pragmatic conclusion. From the point of view of science, the only workable answer is that the natural world has always existed.

    Claim 3 says that the universe came out of something without stating the nature of the thing it came out of. But since the thing existed, as it scientifically must in order to produce its effect, then it was not an ultimate beginning but only a prior step. Finding the origin of the thing is the same question we were already asking.

    Consider what it means to "come from". It indicates a source, or a cause, or an origin, or a principle, or a paradox, or a law, but at least something otherwise you would not have the concept of "coming from" in your mind. Now, if you say that it comes from nothing then you say that whatever the universe comes from wasn't there in the first place, so it cannot actually "come from". Yet it exists, and it cannot "come from" what wasn't there, so it exists without a beginning, which is the same thing as saying that it has existed for all time.

    As an aside, I have never seen any other conclusion that did not simply push the question back by one step: where does the source of it come from?

    That's how I see it. We're like the number 5 on the line of real numbers. Infinity lies both before and after us in time.

    Oops, where does this come from? How does the passage of time imply that infinity is somehow incomplete?

    I can't address the rest of your post right now since it extends this claim.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2007
  15. Apr 30, 2007 #14
    I agree with you, but there is no alternative. Any explanation for why the universe exists will sound crazy, no matter which form it takes. The best we can do is come up with a story that leaves no room for further questions.

    Infinities cannot exist in reality. The future is eternal because it is only a concept in your mind and doesn't exist in reality. Just like that line of real numbers.

    Since the past is real, it cannot be infinite.
  16. Apr 30, 2007 #15
    It will sound crazy simply because "why things exist" is ultimately an unanswerable question. Asking why things exist is a search for the cause of existence. But since the cause must itself exist then "why things exist" is a circular question, not an answerable one.

    I think we can do better. We can simply realize that the question makes no sense, stop asking it and move on to questions that do make sense.

    If this is not acceptable and you really need a more tangible solution then you can make one up of course. Here's one answer: because nothing cannot exist. There, now we're done. :wink:

    What makes infinity impossible? How did you reach this conclusion?
  17. Apr 30, 2007 #16
    No, it will sound crazy because it's a description of an event that only happened once.

    I think people are mostly concerned about the physical universe. If the origin of the physical universe can be traced to something non-physical, that would be the end of the search.

    That doesn't seem like a satisfying answer. Most people find it very easy to consider the possibility of nothing existing. It seems, in fact, rather more natural than a universe with specific features.

    This is simple: because infinity, like zero, is a product of human imagination.

    Of course you believe things of infinite magnitude can exist, because you can think about them. But you can also think about things of zero magnitude, and those definitely don't exist!
  18. Apr 30, 2007 #17
    Not for everyone. This "non-physical cause" would have to exist, whatever "non-physical" means to you, which may differ from what it means to someone else. And we cannot assume that everyone will be content with some non-physical answer either. You would have to ask where this non-physical cause comes from. You would go through another iteration of this recursive question. And so on. Forever.

    Are you saying that the mere fact that humans can formulate the concept of infinity makes infinity impossible? If so then I'm sorry but that just does not follow. Maybe I missed a step or I misunderstand what you are trying to express.

    I can think of things that can exist and things that cannot exist. It proves nothing with regard to infinity.
  19. Apr 30, 2007 #18


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    To experience infinity you have to live forever. Even with this gift, you would still be uncertain as to whether infinity exists or not. It would never be proven either way.
  20. Apr 30, 2007 #19
    This doesn't make sense to me. If we were the number 5 on an infinite timeline .... one cannot claim an infinity before or after 5. We obviosly have a different interpretation of infinity.

    By making this statement I assume that when you use the word infinity, that you really mean it. i.e. a complete infinity - thusly if time still passes we are in process toward a complete infinity of time. This says to me that the universe has existed for a finite time, and had a beginning.
  21. May 1, 2007 #20
    The good news is that we don't need to experience everything before we can understand it. We don't have to travel a light year to understand what a light year is and we don't have to experience infinity to understand what infinity is. And at this point in the discussion we have no basis to refute infinite time.

    Infinite: does not begin or end. There is an infinite number of values before and after 5.

    But this was only an analogy. Don't concern yourself if it doesn't help since it is not essential to the argument.

    Some say that since the past is gone and the future does not even exist yet then all that exist is now. It's a defensible point of view. But for practical reasons, considering both the past and the future helps us understand reality in action. How far back in the past and how far forward in the future do you need to contemplate? It depends on the question you are asking. When you do a mechanical physics experiment in class using a pendulum, you only need to look back to the start of your experiment and forward to when you plan to end it. You don't need to consider infinity to determine how a pendulum moves. On the other hand, if you ponder the origin or reality then you ponder an entirely different domain where you cannot dismiss infinite past and infinite future. It goes with the nature of the question.
  22. May 1, 2007 #21
    "Non-physical" means anything that has no size, position, mass, momentum, or any property that can be expressed as a quantity.

    We cannot assume that everyone will be content with any explanation, no matter how convincing (http://www.theflatearthsociety.org) [Broken]. We don't have to worry about reaching universal consensus.

    Not at all. If logic can be shown to be the primary cause of the physical universe, then the search is over. It doesn't even make sense to ask where logic comes from.

    I didn't put it the right way so let me try again. Infinity is not a quantity, just like zero is not a quantity. If you say an object is moving at a speed of zero, you are saying it is not moving at all. If you say an object is moving at infinite speed, you are also saying it is not moving at all (this is not as obvious but just as correct; an object moving at infinite speed would be in more than one place at the same time, which really means it's not one object but many).

    When you say the universe had no beginning, that it existed forever in the past, you are essentially saying that time does not exist or is not real. Again, this is not obvious, but if you think about it you'll see it's the correct interpretation.

    (just notice how a lot of people make the claim that time is not real, that only the "now" exists. Which is not true either)

    But at least you should realize that most things you can think about do not or cannot exist. We have to be very careful with our ideas as most of them are arbitrary creations.

    Actually, the word "infinite" means "without end", not "without beginning". And the line of numbers begins at zero, not at -infinity (all numbers are defined in terms of their distance to zero, not in terms of their distance to -infinity)
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  23. May 1, 2007 #22


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    My contention is that "nothing" does not exist (by its own definition). So, something cannot, in any way, emerge from "it".

    Yet, we discuss. We diverge in opinion. We breath and so on, or, in the very least, we are under the illusion that these activities take place.

    And that is "something". And it exists.

    The only way "nothing" can be determined is if we have "something" to compare it to. Yet, I have yet to be shown what "nothing" looks like. :rolleyes:

    So, by my own logic, one must have something first for nothing to be discerned. Therefore, everything has emerged from "something"........... including "nothing".
    Last edited: May 1, 2007
  24. May 1, 2007 #23
    So physical means quantifiable. Ok, let's use this.

    Ok again, let's just see what can and cannot be said.

    Yes, asking why logic exists does seem like another circular question: we would be using logic to answer why it exists so it also seems senseless. Again, the logical approach would be not to ask why logic exists but to ask answerable questions instead.

    Here, I beg to differ. Infinity is a concept and not a quantity, but zero is. Zero is an exact value, infinity is not. You can add or multiply using zero and some quantity and obtain a quantity as a result, which you cannot do with infinity. There are very important differences between the two. One is a value, the other is not.

    If it were possible for an object to move at infinite speed (which relativity denies, but that's science instead of philosophy) then you would have more than just one interpretation.

    1. The object occupies all positions at the same time (what you were saying) so it is everywhere along its path.
    2. The object occupies every individual position for 0 time so it is nowhere at all.

    Of course, being everywhere or nowhere are contradictory statements. And if you are correct in saying that moving at infinite speed is the same thing as no moving at all, then you also have a contradiction. These contradictions invalidate the premise. Therefore, infinite speed must be impossible.

    On the other hand, a speed of 0 is non-contradictory and perfectly possible.

    Since you based this on the equivalence of zero with infinity and I have shown that they are not equivalent, I think you can see how this does not hold.

    Not exactly. It means without limits or boundaries. You can consider infinity in any direction suitable to your argument.

    I made a tongue-in-cheek remark above that was similar to what you are saying. I said that "nothing cannot exist" with a wink, but there may be a useable semantic argument to be made. If we define "nothing" as the absence of anything real, and if we understand "to exist" as the same thing as to be real then we see that "nothing" cannot be real. If nothing cannot be real, the only alternative is something. This provides a semantic answer to the question "why is there something instead of nothing?" "Because nothing cannot exist." (Where is that wink smilie?)

    Ditto. It wouldn't look like anything of course.

    So you are saying that "nothing" comes from "something" but not the other way around.
  25. May 1, 2007 #24


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    This is my logic:

    You can't have "shadow" without "light". Therefore one could be assured that when they feel a shadow fall upon them, its because there is a light casting the shadow.

    Similarily "nothing" (which does not exist) can only be contemplated from a position of "something" or that position which compliments the lack of something.

    By this reasoning it is something that defines nothing and it cannot be the other way around since the alternative to something does not exist.

    To say that nothing does not exist isn't just semantics, it is decided by the virtue and the very definition of nothing. So it is with that contradictorial and ironic sense of humour that the universe has to offer us that I remain convinced that it is only because of the existence of "something" that "nothing" can be conceptualized and said to be an influence on existence.:rofl: :rolleyes: :approve: :cool: :smile: :redface: :wink: :wink:
    Last edited: May 1, 2007
  26. May 1, 2007 #25
    Actually, if we stop using "infinite" to refer to the universe's past, and start using "eternal", which is really the proper word, then it should become clear that if the universe did not have a beginning then time would not exist. ("eternal" means "outside of time", as in "eternal truths").

    Since time obviously exists, the universe must necessarily have had a beginning.

    (I wrote a post addressing all your points, but found it ridiculously long. Hopefully this addresses the central point of the discusssion)

    I not only wholeheartedly agree with this, I think this is the final explanation for why the universe exists: to give meaning to "nothing". Or something crazy along those lines.
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