A Precise Definition of Nothingness

An excerpt from Has the Meaning of Nothing Changed? at Slate:

'It takes Holt 150 pages or so of travelling the world interrogating the nothing theorists to find one who gives what he believes to be an adequate definition of nothing—the nothing we seek to find, the one that qualifies for the “how do we get something from nothing” question.

This comes in his conversation with the physicist and cosmologist Alex Vilenkin, and it’s worth listening to what a stringent definition of nothing really is:

“Imagine,” Holt asks us, paraphrasing Vilenkin, “spacetime [the matrix we live in] has the surface of a sphere. ... Now suppose that this sphere is shrinking like a balloon that is losing its air. The radius grows smaller and smaller. Eventually—try to imagine this—the radius goes all the way to zero.”

Pause for a moment to think of a sphere whose radius has gone “all the way to zero.” No time. No space. It’s hard—but not impossible—to get your head around it. Now back to Holt:

“The surface of the sphere disappears completely and with it spacetime itself. We have arrived at nothingness. We have also arrived at a precise definition of nothingness: a closed spacetime of zero radius. This is the most complete and utter nothingness that scientific concepts can capture. It is mathematically devoid not only of stuff but also of location and duration.” Nothing is nowhere.'