Dear Matt: My friend and I were having a discussion about life in general, and we decided that we need to know why there is any stuff in the universe. Why is there anything instead of nothing? If there used to be nothing, it makes more sense that there would still be nothing. Can you help? — Rick and Rita, Clairemont
If you’re not already beyond help, you will be by the time I’m through with you. You’re going to be really sorry you asked. Anyway, we’ll take a crack at it (skirting the religious implications) with a little help from some consulting philosophers. According to all the big thinkers, “nothing” can’t exist, even though you seem to think “nothing” is more logical than “something” — rubber cigars, chow mein, nuclear waste, and all the other “stuff” of the universe.
The brainiacs challenge you to imagine “nothing.” Go ahead. Give it a shot. The holes in Swiss cheese? An empty bank account? A dark, spooky void stretching to nowhere? Ixnay, they say. Even the void has dimension in time and space; it can be imagined and described, therefore it can’t be “nothing.” Real “nothing” has no characteristics and so it can’t exist. The savants conclude that a world full of rubber cigars and chow mein is much more logical; “nothing” has never existed, and the universe is infinitely old because “something” could not have arisen from “nothing.” They have reduced it all to a mathematical formula, in case you’re still not convinced. But you’re asking for even more trouble if you insist on seeing the proof.