Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fanmail: A conversation about nothing

On Oct 12, 2007, at 8:23 AM, Andrew Sullivan wrote:

Hello, XYMYL. I am completely shocked to have discovered a website related, in every way possible, to a theory that my friend and I developed in our Physics class out of sheer boredom, and have developing for the past month. I would like to hear back from you regarding nothing, and have an (if at all possible) discussion about nothing.

To which I replied:

Hi Andrew,

A conversation about nothing? There is nothing I would enjoy more. I have been very busy lately though, as busy as nothing you have ever seen. But I still make time for nothing, just as I always have.

I'm assuming that this theory of yours is actually the absence of a theory, or the theory that such a theory wouldn't exist. Am I close on that one? I would have a conversation regarding this impossibility or others. Of course, the less said, the better.

Thanks for your interest in nothing.

--Xymyl (KON)

To which On Oct 17, 2007, at 8:14 AM, Andrew Sullivan wrote:

Well, as far as our theory, it's not so much the object of laziness, but an object itself. Nothing is an element. Atomic number 0. It is nowhere on the periodic table of elements, of course, because nothing is not tangible. But nothing is. Nothing is everywhere. Everything is nowhere. If you think about it, nothing makes sense.

To which I replied:


I'm certainly happy to see that you've proved one of my theories false thru your response. My theory was, of course, that you can't learn nothing in school.

I have to say though, that assigning an atomic number to nothing (even if that number is zero, if that is what you propose) could generate even greater confusion. I'll give an example, not only is nothing not an atom, "it" "is" also not light, gravity, or a thing made up of atoms such as a refrigerator. Should we be expected to make a new listing within every category just to point out that there is nothing missing? Indeed, should every refrigerator manufacturer be required to create a ZERO model that doesn't exist? And what about Sub Zero? People might think the products they sell are inverted refrigerators. They may have to re-brand and could (in the process) lose their proverbial shirts, thus having zero shirts.

I think that the fact that nothing isn't in the periodic table or the "chart" as we like to call it, is one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time. Imagine a world where science was so accepting of nothing as a thing. Sucks right? In case you are not convinced, look at our modern dark age of communication. Nothing being categorized as a pronoun or even as a noun is commonplace, and yet, "it" "is" neither. This is the linguistic equivalent of what you propose with nothing being added to the chart.

Imagine a world where science ebbed and flowed with the whims of the masses, as does language. Now imagine nothing. One totally different thing and no thing at all, right?

True science will often use the testable to "scratch the surface" of the intangible, but it will never test the intangible. For example, a vacuum such as the void of space can be interacted with because there are properties to it. Although it may contain nothing in a general sense, it isn't nothing. True nothingness, would never be testable due to the total lack of properties, and the fact that a testing device would introduce something into what once wasn't. Of course, here at nothing.net, we embrace nothing in all "its" forms, but especially in the lack of form.

To conclude... Nothing as a placeholder is. Nothing infinite isn't. Nothing as a joke is. Nothing serious isn't. Nothing real "is" because "it" isn't.

Thank you for your continued interest in nothing scientific.

--Xymyl (KON)

To Which On Oct 24, 2007, at 8:13 AM, Andrew Sullivan wrote:

If a refrigerator company manufactured a refrigerator brand 'zero', it'd have to exist. But by creating a brand 'zero', the company has created a meaning for 'zero'. As false meaning. 'Zero' does not mean 'refrigerator'. 'Zero' means 'Nothing'. The absence of something. Nothing can define Zero. Nothing is indefinite. But, I suppose that outside the reaches of the result of the big bang, is Nothing in its purist form. The element Nothing I'm referring to. It is void of all that is and isn't tangible. The universal absence.

To which I replied:

Hello again Andrew,

Obviously, the brand 'zero' refrigerator would have to exist if it was manufactured. However, a zero model could exist without the corresponding refrigerator having been manufactured. A zero model that does not exist would be analogous to what you proposed regarding the element nothing. I said it wasn't such a hot idea. You seemed to think it was a great idea.

I appreciate that you point out that "zero" does not mean "refrigerator". I would like to add my corresponding claim that zero does not always equal nothing. I must also point out that nothing does not always mean the absence of something.

Zero is functional, zero is an integral part of a modern ten based numerical system. Zero is also highly useful as an intermediate point between positive and negative numbers. Zero can point to a lack or diminishment. And yes, as you rightly point out, zero can even mean nothing.

Although nothing CAN be used in functional in ways similar to zero, nothing is most widely used as no thing. This is not simply an absence of something, but nothing at all, making "it" independent of everything. Since you make a "big bang" reference, I'm assuming that you appreciate the idea of a time when everything was not in existence. I'd like to think that such a time existed, but sadly, a universe without anything would not be possible. And since nothing in the purest "form" would be featureless, "it" could never act or even react. This means that nothing would ever exist. So, clearly that dream could never be reality, and if it could, no one would be around to know.

So, although we may use the word nothing for all of its purposes, we always hold in highest regard, true nothing. Unbounded, unfettered, unfiltered, un-acted upon by anything, and unable to interact with anything. Incapable of propagating a universe or a grain of sand, or even a subatomic particle. I hope this helps you to see even more clearly why nothing amazes me.

Just as zero is the universal placeholder, nothing fills the void in our universe and beyond.

--Xymyl (KON)

1 comment:

Laraso said...

But if there was completely nothing, we wouldn't be here to enjoy nothing.