Wednesday, April 16, 2014

'N' is for No Nix Nada Nil Null Not Nothing

'N' is for got Nuttin'!

I was thinking of covering the universal combinator, the Nightingale, with this post. It's a combinator that gives you any other combinator in the combinatory logic:

N = λx -> (xS)K


N = λx -> xKSK

or an infinite many other combinations of combinators that when combined repeatedly reduce either to the S or the K combinators, because the SK-basis has been shown to be Turing-complete.

But then I thought: eh! Maybe you've read enough about combinators this month, or to date, at any rate, so there is it: the N-combinator, the Nightingale, when combined with only itself (in certain desired ways), can give you any computable form. Yay!

So, let's talk about nothing for a sec here.

... hm, hm, hm, ...

Nice talk?

The problem with nothing is that there's nothing to talk about ... about it. But people tend to talk quite a bit, and if you reduce what they've just been saying to you and to everyone else who will listen (and quite a few of them won't), then you find that they haven't been really talking about anything at all, and, insult to injury, even they would find their own words boring, obnoxious, offensive, thoughtless, careless, if you played them back to them and forced them to listen to every word that came out of their mouths.

Ever listen to yourself speaking? Educational experience. Sometimes, I stop and listen to myself. Most times, I find, it would be better if I shut myself up sooner rather than later.

geophf, shut up! I tell myself.

Sometimes I listen when I tell myself that.

I feels better when I shut myself up when I'm speaking I have nothing to say

You know: THINK before you speak.

If it's not every one of those things, then why did I just open my mouth.

Here's another gauge.

Bad people talk about people.
Good people talk about things.
Great people talk about ideas and ideals.

What are you talking about?

Okay, but that's really 'something' that I've been talking about, and that is what people talk about, which is usually 'nothing good nor kind,' but it's still something, even if that something is vicious or inane or banal.

So let's talk about nothing.

The problem of nothing is that there's none of it. And here's why.

Get yourself to a pure vacuum. Is it inside a glass tube? No, because, actually, you've sucked most of the air out of it, but guess what? There's still quite a bit of light in there. That's not nothing. That's quite a bit of energy.

Drat! Bummer! So, turning off the night doesn't do anything for you. Visible light is gone but then you have infrared and ultravioletooh! vampires! — so you've got to go somewhere where's there's no light, no light, on either end of the visible spectrum.

Okay, spaaaaace!

Quite a lot of dust out there, star dust, and solar winds.

Hm, anywhere where we can go where there's nothing?

How about next to a black hole?

Now, that's interesting.

Now, if we can find a place somewhere around the black hole where it's not sucking up mass nor jetting out X-rays (and, granted, that would be hard to find, ... how about a black hole away from any nearby galaxy in spaaaace! Aw, the poor lonely black hole!) (Nobody cares about black holes being all alone, they're just like: oh! black hole! black holes are evil! I hate you, black hole! But does anybody ever consider the black hole's feelings when they're making these pronouncements? Noooo! They just say these things to the black hole's face, and then wonder why black holes are always so mean to them!)

There's still a problem. It's called the Hawking radiation.

You see, even in a 'pure vacuum' ... it isn't. Nature abhors a vacuum, so what happens is that there's so much energy around a black hole that it creates quantum particles (the Higgs field?) sucking most of them back into itself, but some little quarks escape, at around the speed of light (quark: 'Imma getting me away from that there black hole! NAOW!') and so Hawkings predicted, correctly, that even black holes emit radiation.

Bummer, dude! There doesn't seem to be anywhere where you can find yourself some nothing to be all sad and morose and all alone by yourself! You just have to buck up and accept the John Donne commandment: No quark is an island.

Or something like that.

BUT THEN! There's mathematics. You can invent a mathematical space where there's nothing in it, just it, and you (which makes it not nothing, but you get some quiet-time, finally, some alone time to catch up on your reading without having to worry about if the dishes were done).

What happens there? Besides nothing? What does it look like? Besides really, really empty?

Here's an interesting factoid (factoid, n.: geophf's interesting declarations that may or may not be somewhat related to some real reality), you're not the first visitor there.

There was this tall, thin dude in a white lab coat, by the name of Mach (no, not Mac the Knife, okay? Different Mac), and yes, the measure of velocity greater than the speed of sound was named after him (you know: mach 1, mach 2, mach 5+ for SR-71s), but besides that (and that's more than most people have ever done with their lives, but did he rest on his laurels? No. Besides, ... he still needed to earn his bread, so he could bake it, and then enjoy it with a latte) (lattes are important to physicists and mathematicians, don't you know.)

(But I digress.)

(As usual.)

Besides that, he did this thought-experiment. He created this mostly empty space, just him and the star Alpha Centauri in the distance. That was it in the entire Universe. And he spun himself, arms outstretched.

How did he know he was spinning? Easy, Alpha Centauri came into view, crossing it, then disappeared behind him as he spun, and he saw the star in an arc.

Next, he removed Alpha Centauri.

Now. Was he spinning?

He had no way to tell. You can tell you're spinning, because you get dizzy and then sick, but why? Because of gravity. Earth's gravity (mostly). But now there's not Earth.

There's not even Another Earth. So gravity is not now giving you a frame of reference, and you could tell you were spinning because there Alpha Centuri was in the distance, giving you your (only) point of reference, but now it's gone, too.

You could be moving a million miles per hour, you could be spinning and doing backward summersaults (or winter-saults for all you know: no seasons; no nothing. No nothing but nothing in your created Universe), and you'd have no frame of reference for you to make that determination.

Are you spinning in Mach's empty Universe?

The answer to that is: mu.

The answer to that question is that that's not a question to be asking. The answer to that question is that it has no sensible answer, whether you're spinning or not, you have no way to tell, or, no way to measure it. What's your coordinate system? How do you measure your speed or your spin. You don't, because if the XY-axis extends from in front of you, then it's always oriented to your front, no matter which way you face.

Anyway, where is time in all this? There's nothing. Space is bounded by the things in it, otherwise there's not space. 'Space' is emptiness, nothing there, but the space is defined by the no-thing between things.

There are no things in your nothing-Universe.

No space, no space-time. No space-time, no time. Spin needs time to measure.

If you had Alpha Centuri, then you would have light from four years ago shining on you, but now you have nothing, no light, no space, no time. No spin.

This post was about nothing, nothing at all. I hope you see when you get to that point where there is indeed nothing, no dust, no light, no nothing, you really, really do have nothing, not even space (the space between things: there are no things), not even time, not even spin.

Not even weight; weight needs gravity. You have no gravity in your nothing-Universe.

Enjoy the slim new-you, but the thing is, it'll be a lonely victory, so no bragging rights: nobody to brag to.

Okay, I'm going to go enjoy a latte with my busy, noisy family, and enjoy my not-nothing, not-solitude.

Nothing's not all cracked up to be what it's supposed to be.

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