If space is not empty, what is? The ultimate void?

As I grew up, the concept of “space” was of an area devoid of matter (and we had not heard about “dark matter” then). The science fiction I was addicted to usually used terms such as the vacuum of space, or the cold emptiness of space or the void of space. But the concept was of physical space with our conventional, and comfortable,  3-dimensions. Space was always something things could move into. The known laws of physics applied there, if there was something there to be applied to. It was to be the exciting, new frontier for the expansion of human thoughts and in due course of humans and the human spirit.

Somewhere along the way, the insight developed that being devoid of matter did not mean being devoid of properties. I think it must have been in my pre-thermodynamics days, that it occurred to me that the lack of matter must still leave the space with dimensions. Distance must still be measurable across the empty space. Gravity must, logically, still apply between masses on either side of empty space and therefore the space must also have the ability to propagate the force across it. Presumably it also had the ability to allow light to traverse it. Then, as I first encountered thermodynamics, I began to think of temperature as the energy level of vibrating atoms and molecules and realised that the coldness of space was meaningless in the absence of any particles. I grappled with the concept of absolute zero on the temperature scale and came to the conclusion that without matter first existing, temperature was an undefined property. Cold space was just plain wrong if temperature was not defined.

Then along came my awareness of Einstein and his space-time (which he himself compared with the aether). There was no longer anything which could be called empty space. The universe was, without any doubt, expanding. But then I had to grapple with whether the universe was expanding into a space (or space-time) already extant, or which created its own space as it went along its merry, expansive way. That still left the question: What was there before the universe expanded into the new when-and-where of the space-time it was creating? The expanding universe is itself mind-blowing, since it applies to galaxies but not apparently to our bodies, or even to bodies within the solar system. That led me to wonder about the nature of the expansion of the universe itself. It is observed (inferred) by astronomers and physicists, but only from within the universe. Would an observer external to the universe, if such an observer could exist, also observe that the universe was expanding? Of course, that leads to the question of the nature of the space to be occupied by such an external observer, and the properties which that space or space-time or space-time-magic continuum might have? Or was the universe, by definition, such that nothing – and no thing – could be external to it? What would expansion in our space-time mean to an observer who transcended our dimensions? Could a fish in its pond conceive of the empty space beyond the water surface?

Expanding Universe - hubblesite.org

Expanding Universe – hubblesite.org

Now the expansion of the universe is not proceeding as it should with the known forces and energy-levels that exist. The expansion of the Universe is apparently accelerating. It is not slowing due to gravity as it should. Therefore dark matter and dark energy must exist. To fit the theories, the universe is apparently made up of 68% dark energy, 27% dark matter and just 5% of normal matter that we can observe. But this only leads to more questions. If 95% of the known universe is of unknown, magical stuff, then how representative of anything is what we infer from the 5% we can observe?

It is easy to draw a picture of an expanding universe on a piece of paper. But note that the “space” on the paper outside the universe is not labelled. It is just “empty space” and merely the backdrop for the diagram. The moment we imbue space or space-time with any properties, we inevitably define also the conception of the non-existence of those properties. And I still have difficulty getting my head around this M-space (magic space) which is truly empty and which is devoid of all matter and all possible properties, attributes or characteristics. M-space then must be the ultimate void, the magical non-thing, which is the backdrop for the universe.

But my real problem is that I cannot even conceive of M-space without giving it some property – even if only the property of having no properties or that it is not of this universe. Which only leaves Magic as the backdrop for everything.


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