Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thoughts from my Dad: Nothing

Today I'm starting a new segment called "Thoughts from my Dad". Here, my Dad hijacks and pollutes the good name of my blog by rambling on about whatever he feels like (as long as he thinks it's science related).

I say this tongue in cheek, of course. Although he doesn't have a degree in any of the physical sciences (he's a psychologist), he is very interested in them. I guarantee he has watched more NOVA than you have. 

With each submission I will include my thoughts back to him and his reply. This makes the post pretty long by comparison to my other posts, but I thought it would be fun to read my Dad's thoughts, my reaction, and his reply all in one post.

Today my Dad writes on...Nothing.

Researchers Everywhere
Thank you

I learned two things early in life, the first hard work, and second, nothing is for certain.  I would imagine that it is not so much about hard work, but learning that doing nothing is the hardest job to do because you’re never finished.  However it is the one thing, or nothing, that my children reminded me that I know the most about. So I thought I would write about what I know, or have been told that I know the most about.     

When I started looking into nothing, I found that there is much written about it, and that nothing is a big deal in the scientific community.  For instance, the Higgs boson explains a lot of nothing.
My understanding of nothing comes from 3 theories and one movie.  Keep in mind that the following is very simple and broad explanation of the 3 theories of nothing. 

The first theory comes from Albert Einstein.  His first explanation basically states that space can come into existence and nothing (meaning empty space…) can possess its own energy. Another explanation for nothing comes from the quantum theory of matter. In this theory, nothing is actually full of temporary particles that continually form and then disappear.

Another explanation for nothing is a dynamical energy fluid or field, something that fills all of space but something whose effect on the expansion of the Universe is the opposite of that of matter and normal energy.

Personally I don’t understand nothing…and the more I read it gets weird, like having the existence of several extra dimensions to the universe that is compacted into extremely small scales, and wait….wait let’s add another dimension or string to explain what can’t be explained.

What I do understand and “real science” agrees is everything (and nothing) in the universe is energy and electrical currents, and electrons behave like waves in a sea of energy.

In his book, “ A Happy Pocket Full of Money” David Cameron says: (David Cameron Gikandi discusses true wealth is about discovering the value within yourself and the value within other people. It's about a kind of conscious living that incorporates gratitude, a belief in abundance, and the experience of joy.)
"Science shows us that everything is made up of energy and exchanges that with everything else at all times in a most complex way. It is the building block of all matter. The same energy that composes your flesh is the same one that composes the bricks of your house and the trees outside. It is all the same. It is constantly at flow, changing form all the time. This is a very simple explanation of a rather complex thing." 
(One might say “This is a very simple explanation for nothing”) We then can say that everything in this universe is made up of the nothingness. It is just present in different forms and shapes…..
In his great book,” The Divine Matrix”, Gregg Braden starts off one of his chapters saying: There is a place where all things begin, a location of pure energy that simply "is".

Our human body is filled with cells containing energy. In addition, each cell is made up of molecules and these molecules are made up of atoms with protons, neutrons and electrons. What are the atoms made of? (Nothing and pure energy) also, mental energy has been repeatedly compared to, or connected with the physical quantity energy.  Studies of the 1990s to 2000s have found that mental effort can be measured in terms of increased metabolism in the brain.1 One thing that science and pseudo-science can agree is that everything and nothing is one big piece of energy.

David Cameron - in his book, “A Happy Pocket Full of Money” - is referring to thoughts causing ripples in this sea of energy. A shift on one part of that massive field of energy ripples on and causes shifts in the parts next to it and they cause shifts in the parts next to them and that ripple goes on forever.

Furthermore he says:
“Because you are part of that universe, the ripple comes back to you and gives you back a dose of similar essence. You cause a change in the energy field around and in you, and it ripples, touching everything. And everything of course ripples back in reaction, sending it back to you, all multiplied...."2
Kinda like the butterfly effect….not the movie but from the chaos theory.
If I can then emanate goodness and well-being from my thoughts into the universe, then would that be part of the nothingness? And if more and more thoughts-- positive or negative-- would they not expand the nothingness which is contributing the rapid expansion of the universe? 
Lets’ hold off on the idea that our thoughts are expanding the universe…or dooo they?
Can we agree that everything is still touching and space or nothing is just the construct that gives the illusion that there are separate objects…….

Astronomers know that much of the universe is missing. In fact, if you add up all the energy and mass in the universe, 95 percent is invisible. Only 5 percent is known visible matter including everything around us, atoms and so forth, and 95 percent is either dark energy or dark matter. Dark energy meaning repulsive type of energy which is pushing the universe apart and dark matter meaning a type of matter which is exerting a gravitational pull on galaxies but we don’t see it.
The reason astronomers believe in dark matter is because if you just take visible matter, then the stars on the edges of galaxies ought to be moving a lot slower than they are. Another piece of evidence is that galaxies ought to be less tightly clustered than they are. So for example, if you look at our galaxy and the neighboring galaxies, and you predict how much pull they should exert on each other, there’s something missing. There’s some missing glue that’s holding the galaxies together into clusters.

I affirm that astronomers are looking for the “glue to hold something together” that is not apart?
A movie that helps explain nothingness is entitled Nothingness. I watched this movie in its entirety in hopes it would get better, my family eventually left me alone.  The move is a waste of space, time, and energy….you should watch it….

I would suppose that I choose to write about nothing and somehow tie science into it all, is for my final and real comment:  One theme that I have seen in my years of practice as a counselor that keeps repeating itself and is common among many of my clients over the past 15 years is uncertainty and the unknown.  Those things that we can’t understand or explain creates fear, doubt and unrest.  

I stated that I learned two things early in life, the first hard work, and second, nothing is for certain. 
After the study of nothing, I can state “one thing is for certain,” that is math or measurement. 
Measurement is integral part of physics like any other scientific subject.  I have seen the philosophy of measurement with my kids who didn’t even know what math was. They would compare their height, size of candy, who got what and who did not. All these happen even before they knew math. Math is built into our brains even before we start to learn it. Math provides a great way to study about anything or nothing.  And I have to say thank you to all those researchers who are finding the answers to nothing and everything…

I sleep better knowing those questions will someday be answered.

Writen by Ron Jones MS, LCPC, QP, NCC.
Editor’s note: This guest post was written by Ron Jones; a science enthusiast that does not blog and only follows The Collapsed Wavefunction

[1]  Benton, D., Parker, P. Y., & Donohoe, R. T. (1996). The supply of glucose to the brain and cognitive functioning. Journal of Biosocial Science, 28, 463–479. Fairclough, 
S. H.,  Houston, K. (2004). A metabolic measure of mental effort. Biological Psychology, 66, 177-190. Gailliot, M.T., Baumeister, R.F., et al. (in press). Self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source: Willpower is more than a metaphor. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 
[2] A very good video that expands more on the idea that our thoughts become things, or as I call it the Think-Feel-Do Cycle  is  This is a good watch if you have time on Netflix about 2 hours.


I'm going to be honest, Dad. I don't know what you're talking about through some of your post. I'm not sure how the Higgs boson explains a lot of nothing , I'm not sure which of Einstein's theories you're referencing, and I have absolutely no clue what you mean by a "dynamical energy fluid or field".
I do know what you're referencing in some of your post, though, so I'll start with those.
 Dark Matter 
I have already written a blog about dark matter. I don't think you got anything wrong. However, I don't think it supports your point of nothingness. Dark matter is not the nothingness that you are talking about. If it were nothing, how would it have a physical manifestation in the real world? 

Virtual Particles 
Virtual particles are what you're referring to when you talk about things "popping in and out of existence". They are real, but are often misrepresented in the media. Virtual particles were originally just a mathematical idea used in quantum mechanics to explain energy fluctuations in quantum field theory. There is experimental evidence for virtual particles though, for example, the Casmir effect. The misrepresentation comes in when all particles are explained as being virtual particles, popping in an out of existence. There is no scientific reason to suspect that the universe is made up of a bunch of nothing. 
One things you mention often is energy. I wrote an entire article about what pseudoscience calls energy. Just insert that article here when it comes out. I'll give you the super condensed version - pseudosciences use the word energy often, but they use it incorrectly. 
The Secret 
Unfortunately, I do know what The Secret is, and frankly I'm surprised that you saw that movie/book as a positive. I have read portions of The Secret and watched the movie. I found it to be totally bunk, and here's why. 
The Secret is a movie about positive thinking. If you want to be a millionaire, The Secret says the only thing you have to do is think positively about being a millionaire. If there is a job you want, send positive vibes out to the universe and the universe will respond by giving you the job. 
There is nothing wrong, of course, with thinking positive thoughts. It would naive to say that nothing could be gained by positive thinking. The real problem with "The Secret" is the belief that thinking really good thoughts will lead to some real, physically meaningful outcome (i.e. become a millionaire by thinking really good thoughts about being a millionaire). I guarantee that if focusing on being a millionaire made it happen, I would be a millionaire many times over.


I will be the first to admit that I don't understand the Higgs boson, Dark Matter, and other scientific matter.   However, what I can do is recall what I have learned on Nova or other scientific broadcast, inject a few terms and make an attempt to sound like I know what I am talking about.  On a few and limited things I have done some research.....or what others call “Google it" When I refer to the “Higgs boson explains a lot of nothing" I simply mean that discovering the Higgs is Nobel-worthy. But it is all about nothing: it is significant because of what it says about the vacuum and a vacuum is: according to Wikipedia a Vacuum is space that is empty of matter. The word stems from the Latin adjective vacuus for "empty" or "void” but to physicists the vacuum is the physical state having the lowest energy.  

However, Peter Higgs and others realized that the state with least energy needn’t be empty; it can instead be filled with what I call the “dynamical energy fluid or field".  Discovering or finding the Higgs boson is really a lot about nothing and I don’t mean that sarcastically  I simply state we know more about noting than what we knew previously.  

Dark Matter: 
Ok, so what my research reveals (what I can recall from watching Nova @ 10 pm) is that even those who have studied Dark Mater are much more certain what dark matter is not, than we are what it is.  You mentioned “how would it have a physical manifestation in the real world?”  An American experiment says that whatever it is DAMA has seen can’t be dark matter, at least not any kind of dark matter predicted by current theories. The experiment, which was placed underground in a City of Chicago pumping station, should have seen a signal if DAMA was right, but it came up empty-handed (their results have just been accepted to the journal Physical Review Letters).

Virtual Particles: 
I don’t know if it is Virtual Particles that I was referring when discussing things popping in and out of existence so I looked it up the Casimir effect just to be sure, what I think I was referring to is the shift measured by Willis Lamb or the Lamb shift…or a fluctuation eect on the particle position due to its interaction with the surrounding electromagnetic field…I think.  

The strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity. I will admit at this point, that energy, depending on which field of science you discuss, takes on a different meaning and perspective….I am looking forward to how Chemistry and the use of energy/light differ from the above….but can you draw similarities?

The Secret:

"The Secret" is the brainchild of Rhonda Byrne, an Australian television producer who says she stumbled upon it while going through rough times.With tongue in cheek, I will defend my view of the Secret…well maybe the premise behind it which is: Thoughts Become Things. A theory I often implement in my work is Self-efficacy. “Self-efficacy affects every area of human endeavor, by determining the beliefs a person holds regarding his or her power to affect situations, thus strongly influencing both the power a person actually has to face challenges competently and the choices a person is most likely to make. These effects are particularly apparent, and compelling, with regard to behaviors affecting health.” [1]Research demonstrates that the level of our belief predicts how likely we are to reach that goal. So, a strong self-efficacy belief predicts that we will most likely reach the goal, and a weak self-efficacy belief predicts that we probably will not reach the goal. Why? Because when we keep our belief strong about reaching the goal, even when we do not know how to proceed or what to do when we fail, we stay open to the possibility of learning what we need to learn in order to succeed. When our belief is weak about reaching the goal, when we get confused or we make some mistakes, we give up.The Secret is more than “positive thinking” Quantum physics tells us that each of us generates energetic frequencies or vibrations. The secret, rather than being about wishing for something and getting it, is about understanding and refocusing personal energy.  The Secret states that we do not attract what we want; we attract what we focus on.  

An intervention that is often used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is similar to the above is the Think-Feel-Do-Cycle.  This is a very quick, simplified explanation of this model: support the Think-Feel-Do-Cycle comes from Antonio Damasio, a Professor of Neuroscience.  I include his theory because it is less pseudoscience, according to Damasio’s theory, the way we think about our situation or events triggers a bodily response—this process Damasio calls “the emotion.” A mental representation of the bodily activity is then generated in the brain’s somatosensory cortices—this is the feeling according to Damasio (1994, p. 145). this feeling affects how we act or what we do.

According to Damasio, these feelings are crucial in helping us make decisions and choose our actions (see Damasio’s somatic marker hypothesis, 1994, 1996).

As an illustration of this, let us say that Ron’s best friend has just offered to let him in on a risky, but possibly lucrative business venture. Although Ron realizes that there are many aspects of the situation to consider, the thought of losing a lot of money causes a bodily response. The feedback from Ron’s body is then juxtaposed with the thought of being tangled up in a losing venture with his friend. It is this negative feeling that informs Ron’s choice of behavior, and he declines the offer without ever pondering all of the costs and benefits. Ron could have considered the situation more thoroughly, but acting on this kind of feeling is, according to Damasio, often the way in which actions are chosen.It is important also to remember that adage “Wishes don’t wash dishes”.

Some may think that this is what is implied by the Secret.  However what is suggested instead is that you need a clear, concise, and consistent approach to plotting your goals and our ability to imagine those goals, dreams, or aspirations as if they are happening.  This approach will have a profound effect on what we do or choose (focus) to become.  

The Secret implies that if you are not generating what you really want; consider whether you’re automatically focusing on what you don’t want.  This unconscious focus is often influenced by the beliefs from childhood experiences or our perception of the world. The Secret also states that you have to give value in order to get value.  You get back what you put out.

Finally, your argument “I guarantee that if focusing on being a millionaire made it happen, I would be a millionaire many times over.”  

Don’t lose the focus son, my retirement depends upon it!

[1] Luszczynska, A., & Schwarzer, R. (2005). Social cognitive theory. In M. Conner & P. Norman (Eds.), Predicting health behaviour (2nd ed. rev., pp. 127–169). Buckingham, England: Open University Press.