As per Minecraft Wiki, even a game which can be anything seems to struggle with the concept of nothing.
Air is a block used to represent unoccupied spaces, it can only be destroyed or created by the placement or removal of other blocks, that is the definition of air.
Just take a look at some of the game’s past patch nodes, air is now internally a block and can’t be kept in the inventory. It has a missing texture, therefore, cannot be kept in the inventory anymore, but it’s internally still handled as a block.
The game cannot decide whether air exists or not, but clearly, it plays an important role in the game.
However, here on earth we know that air is not a nothing, it is composed of a something, the density of air at sea level starts at around its much and as you go higher and higher, up and up, the density decreases more and more until you reach something which could be an actual nothing.
That is outer space. It’s tempting to say that outer space is empty, density does not really need to zero even in outer space.
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The space between our planets, the interplanetary space, still has a density. At this point we are not really talking about kilograms per cubic meter or even grams or micrograms, we are talking about how many particles there are per cubic meter.
The space between our planets can vary between 5 to 100 particles per cubic meter, the space between star systems it’s not really empty and it itself can have a density that varies by several orders of magnitude, from trillions of particles per cubic meter.
While viewing ionized particles per cubic meter, the space between galaxies shows that’s not empty either.
What about the space that ordinary metal stuff exists in on earth?
Space is there too. There is much more ordinary matter than there is in outer space, and that makes the density obviously higher than outer space, what we are looking for here is a perfect vacuum a volume of space that contains no ordinary matter particles.
This is a very difficult thing to find on earth, we can attempt to simulate it but even our best attempts can only do something like hundreds of millions of particles per cubic meter, outer space is actually a much better vacuum but even if you found the perfect vacuum, it’s not necessarily empty of other types of “some things”.
If you measure certain aspects of the way galaxies function, you’re going to notice something strange – galaxies are holding themselves together, but they shouldn’t be able to, they seem to have much more gravitational influence than their overall gravitational strength.
They must have something that is adding more gravitational influence, and at this point in time, it is hypothesized to be an unobserved form of matter called dark matter.
In fact, measurements indicate that dark matter should be here in the universe at quantities at least five times more than that of ordinary matter. Astronomers have not been able to observe it directly, they’re getting really, really close, but until then all that can be said is that there does seem to be this “something” that is close to ordinary matter, which we can’t see, at least not yet.
However, there is something much more terrifying than dark matter, and it seems to be here in quantities that are much larger than both dark matter and ordinary matter combined. Let’s take the space between my hands, let’s remove all types of matter from it until there’s nothing left, even without matter, virtual particles pop in and out of existence in space, creating fluctuations.
These fluctuations might be giving space intrinsic energy that is uniformly spread everywhere.
This energy is called vacuum energy. when physicists attempted to see how much energy this would give empty space something went horribly wrong. When they took something called the cosmological constant in mind, this energy turned out to be an astonishing number of joules per cubic meters.
When they took this stuff in mind, the number came out to be 10 to the power of 120 times larger than the first number. This is referred to as the vacuum catastrophe and is an outstanding problem that has not really been answered yet.
It seems space itself has its own unexplained energy, in fact, dark energy which is a term that’s been given to whatever it is that’s causing space itself to expand, might be emanating from this energy that is inherent in space itself, and dark energy seems to be here in much larger quantities than both dark matter and ordinary matter.
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There’s also the fact that an atom is mostly empty space, 99.999%.
Whatever this empty space thing is, it’s a bit more complicated than that an electron is it like a planet orbiting a star. The star being the nucleus, and the electron is more like a cloud that exists everywhere. That’s because you just can’t pinpoint with 100% certainty where it is.
Some example illustrations show us various clouds of an electron attached to a hydrogen atom at various energy levels, the brighter the area the more likely you would find the electron there. You can’t really call this cloud empty space in the usual sense you see fundamental particles, they have the properties that they have because they have varying levels of interaction with different quantum fields such as the recently discovered X field.
Fields like the Higgs fields are thought to be something which exists everywhere the universe, and since they exist everywhere, space does nothing even begin as something you can “see”.
It is very difficult to find “nothing”, every time you think you found nothing it turns out to be something that is embedded into another nothing.
The example that I mentioned in the beginning, that air, which is the nothing in the Minecraft game, is actually something that exists because of the way the game has been programmed to fill empty space. And the programming code that was used to make Minecraft makes nothing actually be something, embedded into something else.
At the very early stages of the universe, it is thought that the dimensions of space and time, as well as the fundamental forces, were all bunched up into this single state. Whatever exists outside this state, a “nothing” we can’t really call it, because space itself is in a single state.
This state only exists if you take Einstein’s theory of general relativity and reverse its predictions about the evolution of the universe, you will end up with that state where everything is punched up into a single state, or a point.
Until we have a theory of everything it’s very difficult to really say if there isn’t a nothing.
Also published on Medium.