NOTHING: The Science of Emptiness

World Science Festival

Why is there something rather than nothing? And what does ‘nothing’ really mean? More than a philosophical musing, understanding nothing may be the key to unlocking deep mysteries of the universe, from dark energy to why particles have mass. Journalist John Hockenberry hosts Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek, esteemed cosmologist John Barrow, and leading physicists Paul Davies and George Ellis as they explore physics, philosophy and the nothing they share.

This program is part of the Big Ideas Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

The World Science Festival gathers great minds in science and the arts to produce live and digital content that allows a broad general audience to engage with scientific discoveries. Our mission is to cultivate a general public informed by science, inspired by its wonder, convinced of its value, and prepared to engage with its implications for the future.
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Original Program Date: June 12, 2009
MODERATOR: John Hockenberry
PARTICIPANTS: George Ellis, Frank Wilczek, John Barrow, Paul Davies

Introduction 00:19

John Barrow lecture on how nothing can be something. 03:52

Participant introductions. 28:57

Can the beginning be ranked a zero? 30:00

Empty space and virtual particles. 37:11

Does science want there to be nothing? 40:02

Zero may not be nothing. 49:16

What do you get when you test nothing? 58:48

How do you jump from there was nothing to now we can measure nothing? 01:05:01

What if there is evidence that time changes rate and direction. 01:08:30

Does consciousness change the testing of the observer? 01:12:10

What does string theory say about nothing? 01:17:40


42 Responses

  1. Hello, YouTubers. The World Science Festival is looking for enthusiastic translation ambassadors for its YouTube translation project. To get started, all you need is a Google account.

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  2. nothing is what I have in my wallet!!! but my wallet is something!!! & someone made my wallet with some substances. using this analogy there is no such thing as nothing.

  3. tom mathew says:

    What lies in the space if there is such a space between the quark and the antiquark?

  4. Laymans question; what if the matter doesn't cause the curvature of space but vice versa? Flux and flow of space creates space for matter and density, so less-nothing would give space for something? Also, read below @LaMaisondeCasaHouse aka homehousebuildingmansion or some such .

  5. Steven Kates says:

    The background photo; what is it?

  6. cooolway says:

    This guy is trying hard to copy stephen hawking

  7. Donald Smith says:

    "…Higgs bosons, if you can discover them,…" 37.20

  8. Milan Siroky says:

    Leftist fuck, got a stage so spew your leftist hate, Dont have shit to say about CNN and MSNBC LYING their asses off to push their agenda….just the fucking Fox network…Love the explanation on how exactly black holes loose the mass though. One half of virtual particle goes real via gravity energy from the hole….awesome show! (needs more Professor GREEN)

  9. UpShotPHX says:

    Moderator is good but really needs to keep his mouth shut a lot more

  10. we had it right but detoured .we not the earth are at the center of everything and on the qantum scale our observations prove that we have the power to dictate waves or particles. real or illusion.

  11. Honestly, these guys are becoming the spouters of the ultimate gibberish possible…or am I mad ??

  12. All this is getting very close to formalized madness

  13. One guy who can't walk, and 4 others who can't think. This video is a PASS.

  14. Come back to us Frank…

  15. Alan Lloyd says:

    We don't know if NOTHINGNESS is possible. Even if there were no life, to observe it, the universe would still be here.

  16. "Playful elaborations…a little potpourri of examples…"

  17. Our brains dematerialize into mind through the nothingness of electromagnetic brain flux. It is in the sacred dimension of the mind where space and time and matter are inexistent that we find demons and paradises. It is in this dimension that the invisible mind sees but sees not in the Dream world Time and death. I am the mysterious Alif Laam Meem only God knew the meaning.

  18. Joe Weis says:


  19. nothing is a symmetrical averaging out of opposing, virtual forces that, by random quantum fluctuation, became real.


  21. The day Western Sciences start looking at Eastern philosophies and sciences for some of these concepts …. And try and take inspiration of some predefined concepts in ancient Hindu Scriptures …. And translate them into experiments … That day cosmology will grow by leaps and bounds ….

  22. Hindu Vedic Science also spoke about String Theory – in what are considered world's oldest documented manuscripts ….
    They talk about something called Rashmis … Literally translated to lines of energy … And then they idolised this scientific concept into a mythological concept of 'Shiva & Shakti' …. Shiva – That what is nothing and beyond and Shakti – what gives meaning to nothing to translate into something …. And this process was done so that local people … Not pursuing the sciences could still remember the essence of this in some way and that this simplified knowledge could be passed through generations ..

  23. It's weird that I commented on a video about nothingness ^^^ a couple days ago and now when I'm looking again the comment is deleted and I'm seeing nothingness where I had clearly typed some somethingness. Really like MAGIC !! : D

  24. Charly Her says:

    Nothing is something. Take everything out and you have nothing… Obviously, something is nothing. And nothing is something. And that is why we all come to existence from nothing and slowly becoming something and eventually becoming somebody be it rich or poor.

  25. steve4344 says:

    Can you please accept that I think how I think. Wearing black is nothing.

  26. Jp DeeCee says:

    what does nothing acually look like?????????

  27. Ser Korz says:

    They will discover the nothing of the nothing and the something in it, when there is something. Right?

  28. Ser Korz says:

    Are we talking about nothing? or about unobservable something in the void of nothing?

  29. Rigel SG says:

    Metaphysical mirrors

  30. These western jokers should read Indian veda sastra

    Entire truth is revealed 5000 years before

  31. Summon256 says:

    The pure "nothing" in its true essence only remains as such, when it isn't talked or thought about at all…let alone observered! Real "nothing" is only nothing, when there is well…"nothing" to observe, cuz it consists of "nothing" in its true form! (There is no difference in saying – "there is nothing that is there" and – "there is something, that is missing"! These are synonims! Its just a pessimist vs. optimist analogy, when pessimist claims the glass is half empty, whilst optimist claims its half filled!) If you claim you can observe it with ANY of your basic senses (No matter which one – hearing, touching, seeing, smelling or tasting), in other words if you can SENSE it ANY WAY – its not NOTHING anymore! Emptyness is not "nothing" it is – emptyness! Black color – is SOMETHING and not NOTHING…VACUUM of space is SOMETHING, not NOTHING…i can go on and on, but you should get the game by now anyway…

  32. TheMoon says:

    i like the guy on the right, not the moderator(but hes cool too tho).

  33. Mihai Hosu says:

    I'll start off by saying that I'm a huge science enthusiast and an avid reader of scientific literature, but there's fundamental problem with physics that even physicists tend to sweep under the rug. Physics simply can't deal with absolute zero and absolute nothing. All of physics is based on a pre-existent, transcendent framework from which you can then derive the properties of the universe. You'll hear a lot of people condescendingly telling others how physics allows for the universe to spring into existence out of nothing and that God is not required, but what they don't know is that the only way for physics to explain the birth of the universe is to assume a pre-existent, transcendent framework, with internal structure and positive energy, obeying some transcendent laws of physics which give rise to quantum fluctuations, and only by assuming these extremely complex prerequisites can they explain the birth of the universe. So no, the universe din not spring into existence out of nothing, but out of something pretty complex.

    There are a lot of people who think that if they read an article on a scientific journal they know how the universe works and are quick to call others ignorant, but in fact they are every bit as ignorant. Typical debates between Christians and "wannabe scientists" go like this:

    Christian: – God created the universe.
    Scientist: – Well then who created God?
    Christian: – Nobody, God is eternal.
    Scientist: – That's ridiculous, let me tell you how it all happened. There's a predefined, incredibly complex transcendent framework, with internal structure and positive energy, with pre-existing, transcendent laws of physics that give rise to quantum fluctuations, and THAT gave birth to the universe.
    Christian: – And who created that framework with that particular internal structure, where does its energy come from, who created those particular laws of physics that make this vacuum (which is something, not nothing) unstable?
    Scientist: – Nobody, they are all pre-existing and transcendent.
    Christian: – So if I assume the notion of God as a transcendent entity, I'm wrong, because I can't answer the question of who created God, but your incredibly complex pre-existing, transcendent framework is ok to "just be there", it doesn't need a creator and it doesn't have to answer the same questions?
    Scientist: – …

    So science's claim that it can explain everything and that it doesn't need the notion of God is completely false. Physics is using exactly the same prerequisites as Christianity, it's just that Christians call these prerequisites "God" and scientists call them "vacuum".

    So I'd like all these self-assumed, condescending "rationalists" to answer these questions, which I'll state again, because they are essential:
    – who created the internal structure of the vacuum?
    – who created the laws of physics of the vacuum that predate the universe and give rise to quantum fluctuations necessary for the universe to be born?
    – where does the energy of the vacuum come from?

    After they realise they can't answer them and that they're exactly the same questions they're mocking the Christians for not being able to answer about God, perhaps they'll settle down a bit and realise they're every bit as ignorant as those who they are so condescendingly calling ignorant.

    Since physics can't deal with the notion of absolute nothing, no claims about the need or lack of need of God should be made.

  34. To me the big question "Why there is something instead of -NOTHING-" is the most silly question ever asked in science. Because since we have at all no idea of what is "Nothing",then why are we asking "why there is no "Nothing",or "Why there is something rather nothing?Can any body explain what is "NOTHING"?I can challenge no one can explain it.This is because when we think of'Nothing'we always think side by side presence of something.Can any body imagine without existence of us or the universe what it could be then?Our understanding of 'Nothing" is either like a void black space or something which we can not even imagine,that means it is beyond human imagination,so why we are asking this question "NOTHING"?

  35. ram nivas says:

    the concept of nothingness was invented not in greece it was in indian subcontinent. its embedded in indian philosophical thought. nothingness is a state of mind experienced by a meditator, the concept of digit zero is an abstract term to represent nothingness, WHY ARE U SPREADING FALSE INFORMATION, its common habit of westerners to steel native inventions and make their own, SO PATHETIC…

  36. Josh Swann says:

    Nothing does exist. If we can fathom it we can find it and/or create it.

  37. Graham Daw says:

    The canvas is as important as the painting. gd. Yorkshire, UK

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