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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More nothing than you can ever imagine

So far in my musings on nothing, I think these thoughts from NASA Astronomer Sten Odenwald are a wonderful introduction to nothing for anyone that has always thought that nothing was ... well, nothing was simply nothing. Think again.

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The night sky, when you think about it, is one of the strangest sights imaginable. The pinpoint stars that catch your eye are all but swallowed up by the black nothingness of space - an entity billions of light-years deep with which we here on Earth have no direct experience.

What is empty space, really? At first the question seems silly. There's nothing to it! But look again in light of what modern physics knows and suspects, and the nature of space emerges as one of the most important "sleeper" issues growing for the last 50 years. "Nature abhors a vacuum," proclaimed Aristotle more than 2,300 years ago. Today physicists are discovering that this is true in ways the ancient Greeks could never have imagined.

True, the cosmos consists overwhelmingly of vacuum. Yet vacuum itself is proving not to be empty at all. It is much more complex than most people would guess. "But surely," you might ask, "if you take a container and remove everything from inside it - every atom, every photon - there will be nothing left?" Not by a long shot. Since the 1920s physicists have recognized that on a microscopic scale, the vacuum itself is alive with activity. Moreover, this network of activity may extend right down to include the very structure of space-time itself. The fine structure of the vacuum may ultimately hold the keys to some of the deepest questions facing physics - from why elementary particles have the properties they do, to the cause of the Big Bang and the likelihood of other universes outside our own.

1 comment:

PastorSteve58 said...

Just when I thought nothing was nothing!