A Conversation About Nothing

A flash fiction story by Brian Robinson.

Photo by Marija Zaric on Unsplash

“‘Nothing’, that’s what I can’t get my head around. I imagine myself in a spaceship travelling out beyond the universe into an endless ocean of ‘nothing’. That just doesn’t make sense. Do you think it’s because we are so locked into a physical dimension that we find the concept of nothing so difficult to understand?”

“I think part of the problem is that we have no experience of nothing. There is nowhere in our universe where it actually exists. For example, if you made a sealed container and sucked all the air out you would naturally think it empty. But the truth is, the space inside would still be crammed full of stuff like dark matter; dark energy; various penetrating rays and waves; not to mention time.

I also think there is a classic problem with the creation of physical things. Once you create even the tiniest bit of matter you automatically have to create an infinite universe in which to house it. This makes me wonder if physical things actually exist at all.”

“Do you think then, that it is a fundamental law that ‘nothing’ can never exist in a physical universe? And perhaps the opposite is true, that no physical thing can ever enter the realm of ‘nothing’? For example, my spaceship could never get past the boundaries of our universe and out into the ‘nothingness’ beyond.”

“Yes, there must be laws that apply to ‘nothing’, and it must have properties even though they may be negative ones.”

“Could the natural order of everything be ‘nothing’? Perhaps there is no such thing as a physical universe at all. Everything cancels out somehow. For all matter there is a corresponding amount of anti-matter; and for all forces there must exist equal and opposing forces.”

“I think it would make things a lot easier to understand. The only problem is, we haven’t been able to find enough anti-matter in this universe to support that view.”

“Yes I know, but let’s not forget, there may be other universes. These opposites do not have to exist in our universe. For example, there might be another universe that is the exact opposite to ours, an anti-matter universe with different and opposite forces.”

“What about the properties of ‘nothing’? For example, could it act like a membrane containing a universe?”

“Well, it would make practical sense if the universe was surrounded by a membrane. That would prevent it from mixing with other universes and from dissipating out into the ‘nothingness’ beyond.”

“Do you think then, that it is a mistake to think of ‘nothing’ as either infinite or finite. It could be that ‘nothing’ is paradoxical and that both states of affairs exist simultaneously?”

“Yes, that would go a long way to solving the riddle of ‘nothingness’. It represents the ultimate paradox. It is infinite: yet we know that ‘nothing’ must be finite. By definition it cannot contain anything: yet we know it can contain at least one universe, and perhaps millions more. And then there is no sense in which it can be described as existing: yet it has always existed and will always exist. The paradoxical is difficult for us to understand. It may not be a question of getting your head around ‘nothing’: it may be a question of getting ‘nothing’ around your head.”

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

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