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Monday, July 02, 2012

Nothing from something?

Of all the restless minds in all the beds in all the world (and universe), it popped into mine. If "something" can spontaneously appear out of "nothing," can the reverse be true? Can a something also ad lib a disappearing act, surprise slipping back into nothing, or perhaps choosing to inhabit a new nothing when it tires of the other somethings around it.

What got this maybe nothing of an idea started was a something said by cosmologist and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss while on the Colbert Report plugging his new book "A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing."

I highly recommend watching the full interview (the clip is here), but the kick that got my thought-ball rolling was his comment that the universe favors something over nothing because "nothing is unstable." In an apparently empty space, eventually particles will "burp" into existence. Where do the particles come from? Are they the product of a divine indigestion? That's too big a something for me to answer, but not too big for me to toy around with a little.

The nothing-to-something thought trip gets much trippier when you think about the possibility of entire universes big-banging their way into existence where nothing once was. Ours is still spreading out in the spacious nothing it decided to inhabit a long long time ago. Maybe it will reach a limit some day, and return to the void whence it came, starting a new cycle, giving it a second (and third, and fourth...) go to explore all its unexplored possibilities.

I'll even step outside my temporally and causally entrapped consciousness to suggest this cycling of universes could be going on concurrently, with other nothings populated by our twin somethings (evil or otherwise) out for a walk through all the spoking paths we can dream out from the hub of our births.

To me, that's pretty exciting stuff, but what about the less-heartening proposition that all we know will inevitably collapse? Is it a reason to despair? What's the point of all these somethings if they can simply disappear back into nothing on a cosmic whim?

Of course back in the real world we know quite intimately that everything that matters takes the tried and true ashes-to-ashy, dust-to-dusty road to nowhere, or nothing. Even the more abstract can seem to fizzle from our grasp. We tell ourselves feelings, attachments and memories will last, but we've grown quite good at making liars of ourselves, or our minds and hearts have.

All the feelings and experiences that give each of us a "me," and the fleshy me they were poured into, will certainly disappear one day, that inevitable day when we draw our last. Or will they? Maybe they'll slip into another nothing, and make a better something out of themselves. Perhaps the stuff of all our many selves will congregate in the same nothing and form a meta-self. The fact that nothing is unstable, always wanting a something, gives me a reason to believe, but now I'm sounding more religious than scientific.

Ah Physics, you do such a good job of perpetually blowing my mind, and I have no doubt you'll continue to do so as long as my mind chooses to inhabit this now-somethinged space called me.
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