Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing comes from nothing (Latin: ex nihilo nihil fit) is a philosophical expression of a thesis first argued by Parmenides. It is associated with ancient Greek cosmology, such as is presented not just in the opus of Homer and Hesiod, but also in virtually every internal system – there is no break in between a world that didn't exist and one that did, since it couldn't be created ex nihilo in the first place. Note that Greeks also believed that things cannot disappear into nothing, just as they can't be created from nothing, but if they ceased to exist, they transform into some other form of being. We can trace this idea to the teaching of Empedocles. Today the idea is loosely associated with the laws of conservation of mass and energy.
De Rerum Natura
Principium cuius hinc nobis exordia sumet,
nullam rem e nihilo gigni divinitus umquam.
But only Nature's aspect and her law,
Which, teaching us, hath this exordium:Nothing from nothing ever yet was born.
He then continues on discussing how matter is required to make matter and that objects cannot spring forth without reasonable cause.
Nam si de nihilo fierent, ex omnibus rebus
omne genus nasci posset, nil semine egeret.squamigerum genus et volucres erumpere caelo;
e mare primum homines, e terra posset oriri
Suppose all sprang from all things: any kind
Might take its origin from any thing,And, fowl full fledged come bursting from the sky;
No fixed seed required. Men from the sea
Might rise, and from the land the scaly breed,
Some physicists, such as Lawrence Krauss, define nothing as an unstable quantum vacuum that contains no particles. This is incompatible with the philosophical definition of nothing, since it can be defined by certain properties such as space, and is governed by physical laws. Many philosophers criticize physical explanations of how the universe arose from nothing, claiming that they merely beg the question.
The law of conservation of energy states that the total energy of an isolated system cannot change. The zero-energy universe states that the total amount of energy in the universe is exactly zero. That is the only kind of universe that could come from nothing, assuming such a zero-energy universe is, already, nothing. Such a universe needs to be flat, a state which does not contradict current observations that the Universe is flat with a 0.5% margin of error.
References in works of fiction
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In William Shakespeare's King Lear, the king's daughter Cordelia is unable to put her love for him into words, saying, "my love’s More ponderous than my tongue" (Act 1.1). The king says, "Nothing will come of nothing", meaning that as long as she says nothing to flatter him, she will receive nothing from him. Later, Lear nearly repeats the line, saying, "Nothing can be made out of nothing" (Act 1.1 and Act 1.4 respectively).
"KING LEAR: ..what can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.KING LEAR: Nothing will come of nothing, speak again.
CORDELIA: Nothing, my lord.
KING LEAR: Nothing?!
In Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music as Captain Von Trapp and Maria sing the song Something Good they both sing the line "Nothing comes from nothing nothing ever could" in reference to their childhood's influence on their relationship.
At the end of chapter 10 of "Grendel," by John Gardner, Grendel says the phrase in Latin.
- Ex nihilo
- Melissus of Samos
- Principle of sufficient reason
- Spontaneous symmetry breaking
- Vacuum energy
- Lucretius, Titus. "Book 1". De Rerum Natura (in Latin). Lines 149-50: PHI Latin Texts. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
- Lucretius, Titus; Leonard, William Ellery. "Book 1". De Rerum Natura. Internet Classics Archive. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- Lucretius, Titus. "Book 1". De Rerum Natura (in Latin). Line 159: The Latin Library. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- Krauss, Lawrence (2012). A Universe from Nothing. New York: Free Press. ISBN 978-1-4516-2445-8.
- Albert, David. "On the Origin of Everything". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
- Craig, William. "A Universe from Nothing". Reasonable Faith Podcast. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
- Gutting, Gary. "Can Physics and Philosophy Get Along". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
- "A Universe from Nothing". Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Retrieved 10 March 2010. by Alexei V. Filippenko and Jay M. Pasachoff
- "Will the Universe expand forever?". NASA. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- Commentary on King Lear by Dr. Larry A. Brown, Professor of theater