In earlier posts I contemplated that idea of the emptiness that separates matter. I wondered whether the nothingness of empty space is an overlooked subject of inquiry.
One of my earlier ideas was to offer a different explanation for astronomy’s dark matter and dark energy. Dark matter is the unaccounted additional mass required to explain motions within galaxies. Dark energy is the unaccounted additional energy required to explain the expansion of the universe or the relative motion between galaxies. The difference is also of scale. Small scales within galaxies and big scales of overall universe of galaxies.
I wondered if another explanation could be that the galaxies swim across a different kind of nothingness than the nothingness within a galaxy. Imagine each galaxy a globule of nothingness that hosts its stars floating around in a sea of a different kind of nothingness. The two types of nothing have different properties similar to drops of oil in a bucket of water. Like the drops of oil, the globules of galactic nothingness may spin on their own. The oil may have suspended particles that move relative to each other but also will be carried around by the motion of the oil droplet as a whole.
Both of these types of nothingness are inaccessible to human experimentation. Instead we only have access to the nothingness of our local neighborhood of our sun and most of our experiments are in artificial vacuums at the Earth’s surface. We extrapolate our physics of the artificial vacuum to apply to the entire universe.
Maybe there are different kinds of nothingness.
At the other extreme is the nothingness at subatomic or quantum scales. Earlier science proposed that particles are like solid balls bouncing around until observations contradicted that model. We found a solution with quantum mechanics of a dual nature of waves and particles and the inherent uncertainties of measurements. An alternative way to describe quantum mechanics is to say that empty space at the subatomic level behaves differently than the empty space in our vacuum chambers. The nothingness itself is different.
I can imagine a entire taxonomy of nothingness divided into genus and species. Each subatomic particle may be surrounded by its specific species of nothingness and together they move around in a different genus of nothingness that represents the space within an atom. The genus of nothingness for an atom may be distinct from the nothingness within a molecule of shared atoms.
The tree of genus of nothingness (each with a range of species depending on different types of matter they surround) may continue to extend from molecules to materials (various solids, liquids, and gases), to structures of materials up to planets or stars, to stellar systems, and on up to galaxies and universe. Each concept has its own genus of a variety of species of nothingness.
The concepts that apply to one species of nothingness may not apply to another species of nothingness. At the very least, we need to test the nature of nothingness for each species. But all that we have really tested in any detail is the artificial vacuums of human-laboratory scale vacuum chambers.
Different kinds nothingness may offer new explanatory opportunities. Nothingness itself only has meaning because it separates material stuff. We have some reference material that demands the concept of emptiness to explain the physical separation.
Nothingness may have different species that are distinct by the type of material it surrounds or adheres.
A thought experiment is to imagine an electron and proton having their own distinct versions of nothingness that resist each other. The electric forces draws the electron and proton together until their respective nothingness clouds touch and this causes them to bounce off each other elastically. The bouncing continues indefinitely and prevents the electron from joining the proton to neutralize their charges. Huge amounts of energy is required to overcome this repulsion of the two species of nothingness to allow the electron and proton to merge into a neutron or explode into a shower of other particles.
At a larger scale is the ideal gas laws that suggest gas molecules physically collide with each other depending on temperature and pressure. It suggest a instantaneous physical contact of molecules that causes them to bounce off each other. But if this physical collision is occurring, then why does a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen atoms remain stable unless there is a spark. These molecules should very eager to rearrange into water if they had the opportunity. Perhaps the physical contact never actually occurs. Instead what collides is each molecule’s blanket of its own nothingness. This example may have three species of nothingness, the nothingness clinging to oxygen atoms, the nothingness clinging to hydrogen atoms, and the nothingness of the vacuum that separates both.
Perhaps the real nature of physics is in the various species of nothingness. Such a theory is not needed because our sciences have been very good explaining physics and chemistry by forces and energies of physical stuff. We accept that forces can act over a distance or how energy can propagate over emptiness. The fact that math works out very well means there is no benefit to asking how.
Different species of nothingness may offer a different way to understand physics. I grant that it has virtually nothing to offer for human-scale physics. But we have more or less acknowledged there is something different happening at subatomic scales. There are at least hints that something different is happening at galactic and intergalactic scales. If empty space can be different at the two extremes then perhaps it is different everywhere in between.
There may be an extensive taxonomy of nothingness as described earlier.
In yesterday’s post I wondered if nothingness may offer some explanatory power that is lacking from material sciences. Materialistic science is deterministic or has randomness that has deterministic limits. Materialistic science is challenged to explain astonishing events, surprises that don’t seem deterministic at all. In particular I have in mind the astonishing things that occur in living beings. The most astonishing of all is intelligence and its ability for consciousness and self-awareness. I accept that there are theories that reduce our intelligence as an illusion of deterministic processes. It is safe to say I haven’t studied them enough to find them satisfactory.
This is just a blog post and I’m not offering any expertise.
I find life astonishing in a way that defies materialistic determinism. There seems to be something immaterial involved in the process. Not necessarily a soul but something very soul-like in that it has no material basis. I suggested that the magic of intelligence occurs in the gaps between neurons where all of the physics of jiggling neurotransmitters free from one cell surface, diffuse across a synapse, and then jiggle into a receptor location in just the right way to cause a response at the neighboring cell. The cell itself has nothing to do with this part of the process. The machinery of intelligence appears to take place in the space between cells.
Perhaps of all these molecular actors had their own species of vacuum that guided them perhaps through some vacuum equivalent of surface tension, repulsion, and attraction. We know nothing about this because we have never really studied a taxonomy of empty space.
I did want to add to the last discussion that I don’t mean there is some kind of master plan going on. All of the details are negotiated at the local level. It is like the analogy of a capitalistic economy that drives the wealth of nations through the individual transactions of individual selfish transactions. These transactions are not only individual but are also mostly very brief.
An example of a human transaction is my stopping at a convenience store during one of my walks in order to buy a bottle of water. I take the bottle of water to the counter and the clerk scans it, takes my cash and returns some change. We never knew each other before and may never run into each other ever again. But for that brief moment we were in a relationship that involved some commercial transaction. Alternatively, I could come in simply to ask for directions where only ideas are exchanged but only if the relationship is agreeable (for example, we speak the same language).
The same kind of interaction could be occurring everywhere and at every scale.
Note that in terms of the overall national economy that brief transaction of two individuals at a convenience store is nearly invisible. Even within our respective lifespans, the transaction occurred in a negligible instant. You would have to be present to know it occurred at all.
The same may be going on in a chamber of gas molecules that spend the vast majority of time in between interactions and the interaction occurring during encounters is infinitesimally brief but that brief instant could involve some kind of exchange, not just of momentum to the respective masses but of something else to their cloaks of emptiness.
All of our scientific studies have found it necessary to organize similar things into genus and species (at various abstractions, not just the biological definitions). There are recognizably different types of galaxies, different types of stars, different types of planets, different types of materials, different types of molecules, atoms, and particles. Within life sciences we have extensive and ever growing tree of different species of lifeforms.
The exception is of empty space. Of empty space we recognize only one concept and that is the absence of any material. We may be overlooking a science of empty space.
4 thoughts on “A Taxonomy of Nothing”
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