I was reading your recent article on Hawking’s theory/speculation   For one with a non-physics background like myself, most of us would equate vacuum in space with nothingness. That is why the question was posed to you and even why Hawking (I’m actually surprised on this) concluded that a vacuum in space is nothingness.  But in layman’s terms, how would you define nothingness? Why do you think a vacuum in space isn’t nothingness? Can a vacuum in space have something in it so that it can’t be defined as nothingness? Or to dig even further, is space in itself something and if so, what makes you think it is something? Thanks and looking forward to your response.


I am not sure I can define nothingness for you because I live in this universe and this universe is my reality.  It is hard for me to even conceive something not in the universe I live in.  The reason I think that a vacuum is not nothingness is that space is something.  It is a place, for example, in which quantum events such as spontaneous creation of particles occurs.  This is sometimes referred to as quantum foam.  Also, space is a place through which light can travel.  Light cannot travel outside the universe because “outside the universe” is not even defined.  The experimental evidence agrees with what common sense (common sense for a scientist ?) knows, which is that a vacuum is not nothing (please forgive the double negative).  These quantum bubbles are required to explain, for example, the spontaneous emission of light–it is the theory behind how lasers work.  This is why the question “What is outside the universe” is really a nonsense question.  The universe exists within space.  Space defines the universe and the universe defines space.  “Nothingness” is what exists outside the universe, which is nothing.  This is what I mean when I (and Doug Jacoby) say that something (for example the universe or anything in the universe for that matter) cannot come from nothing.  It is also why, in my opinion, Steven Hawking was wrong.

John Oakes

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