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July 25th, 2012

Thinking About Nothing

Danger…deep thinking ahead.   Sorry…but I’ve been chewing on this since my last post about “Why is there something rather than nothing”. Probably it’s all the Science Channel stuff I’ve been watching lately.

Run it backwards. The question I mean. Or…forwards let’s say.   Instead of why is there something rather than nothing, ask how do you get nothing out of something. I’m serious here. Supposedly matter is never destroyed, it’s simply converted into the energies it sprang from, and energy is never lost, it simply goes to entropy…a state where you can’t do anything with it. That, as I understand it, is the rule by which our physical universe works.   The following is from Wikipedia…

The four laws of thermodynamics are:

  • Zeroth law of thermodynamics: If two systems are in thermal equilibrium with a third system, they must be in thermal equilibrium with each other. This law helps define the notion of temperature.
  • First law of thermodynamics: Heat and work are forms of energy transfer. Energy is invariably conserved but the internal energy of a closed system changes as heat and work are transferred in or out of it. Equivalently, perpetual motion machines of the first kind are impossible.
  • Second law of thermodynamics: The entropy of any isolated system not in thermal equilibrium almost always increases. Isolated systems spontaneously evolve towards thermal equilibrium — the state of maximum entropy of the system — in a process known as “thermalization”. Equivalently, perpetual motion machines of the second kind are impossible.
  • Third law of thermodynamics: The entropy of a system approaches a constant value as the temperature approaches zero. The entropy of a system at absolute zero is typically zero, and in all cases is determined only by the number of different ground states it has. Specifically, the entropy of a pure crystalline substance at absolute zero temperature is zero.

Okay…so as I read this, and as I have always understood it, you can’t destroy energy.   Energy is invariably conserved… You just move it from one place or form to another.   You need energy that hasn’t degraded into entropy to do work, but when you do the work, transfer energy, entropy increases.   No transfer of energy is ever 100 percent efficient.   Some is always lost to entropy.   Eventually entropy is all there is.   But as I understand it, the energy is still there.

So…the thinking these days as I understand it, is given that the rate of expansion of the universe is increasing as the universe gets bigger, the end game of our universe is The Big Chill.   That is, it spreads itself so thin the energy in it approaches absolute zero and it’s all entropy nearly all the matter in it has decayed and maybe there are a few protons left but even those will eventually decay and then time simply stops.   (the best definition I ever heard of time was when a physicist on a science program I was watching ages ago said that “time is one damn thing after another”.)   Fine.   I’m told physicists working in the standard model will basically dismiss questions about “what happened before the “Big Bang” as meaningless since time did not exist before there was a universe.   There was no “before”.   Okay.   Fine.   So no time before there was time, and time will stop eventually.   But at the end of time and beyond if energy isn’t gone (let alone the space) then you don’t have a state of absolute nothing.   You still have a “something”.   And from all I can grok here you can’t make it go gone.

So once you have something you can’t make it nothing again.   You can move the something around but you can’t make it simply disappear.   Energy is invariably conserved.   If that’s true, then you can’t ever reach a state of absolute nothing.   Not in this universe, not in any universe.   If you could find a way to drain all the leftover energy out of this universe, all you’re doing then is just putting it somewhere else.   If it cannot be destroyed then how do we say it nonetheless had to have been created at some point?   If the question is where did the something in the Big Bang come from, then it’s looking to me like the answer is, it was always there.

So maybe we’re back to the concept of forces that are simply eternal.   Which is as hard to wrap your head around as absolute nothing, but then you pretty much had to figure whatever the ultimate answer is it would be.

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