More about ‘nothing’

In response to the comments about my post about whether the question of why there is something other than nothing was meaningful, I thought I would link to an old post of mine titled Much ado about ‘nothing’ (I was quite pleased with myself for coming up with the title) that discussed the flak that erupted following the publication of the book by Lawrence Krauss that purported to explain why there is something rather than nothing. Krauss and Neil de Grasse Tyson do not come out well in that episode.

Since my post was from 2013, it is likely that many readers have not seen it before.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    Damn, I missed out on that one. I only started commenting on Pharyngula near the end of 2012. I guess I didn’t start reading the other blogs for a while.

    I’d have loved to address the (unjustified, IMO) slagging of Albert in particular, and philosophy in general, as well as the usual trite nonsense about “virtual particles popping into and out of existence”. Coulda been a barn-burner!

  2. ardipithecus says

    When the discussion is abandoned, left to be viewed dwindling in the rear-view mirror, are you planning to title your commentary “Much Adieu About nothing”?

  3. Kimpatsu1000 says

    That would be a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    It should be noted that, in the Shakespeare play, “nothing” is a double-entendre. It was slang for ‘vagina’ at the time. Comparable to his reference to “country matters” in Hamlet.

  5. jenorafeuer says

    I think Isaac Asimov already did that one. I know somebody did, and that sort of thing was definitely in Asimov’s wheelhouse.

    (Asimov loved his little short short/one page ‘shaggy dog’ stories that ended on a single really bad pun. In this case it was a story about a discovery of a meteorite about to hit earth, everybody saying goodbye to each other as they waited for the end to come, and then the meteorite just barely missing; followed up by somebody saying that they’d use that title for their book describing the events.)

  6. cafebabe says

    Yes, nothing is a very slippery idea -- and a slippery word to boot. Sabine Hossenfelder did 13 minutes of YouTube around 3 weeks ago on “The 9 levels of nothing”.
    But quite apart from nothing as a concept the use of the word “nothing” conversationally leads to such paradoxes as
    (p1) nothing is better than eternal happiness;
    (p2) a ham sandwich is better than nothing;
    ergo -- by the transitive property of “better than”, a ham sandwich is better than eternal happiness.

  7. John Morales says

    Depends on the phrasing.
    P1: The set of things better than eternal happiness is empty;
    P2: A ham sandwich is better than no food;
    Ergo: nothing.

    (Also, “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana”)

  8. cafebabe says

    @John Morales
    Of course. My point is that if one is talking about the nothing word, one has to cope with the fact that in conversation sometimes the word is use to assert the emptiness of a certain category of things.

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