matter to be fundamental and even inexplicable. Many also believe that we mustassume that the fundamental ideas will be expressed in a mathematical languagethat already exists independently of the physical principles we are expressing.Others again are prepared to believe that the unifying mathematical structure,whatever it is, will be a sophisticated one which only a few will be able to trulyunderstand.
I do not believe in any of these things
. If physics is to prove itself themost fundamental possible way of understanding the ‘natural world’, then it must
space, time and matter, as well as use them, and it must
themathematical structures it uses; it must also show how all things that aresophisticated arise from things that are much more simple. In principle, allpossible complications must be removed from the ultimate starting point. It hasto be intrinsically simple and absolutely single.So, how do we construct such a theory? What would be left after we haveremoved all the complications? What could be our single and simple startingpoint? There is only one possible answer: zero, absolutely nothing, or perhaps‘no thing’. This is the only thing in all our experience which has no structure andincludes no complication. So, zero must be our starting point. It must also bewhere we finish, for nothing, as we all know, comes from nothing –
nihil exnihilo fit
. The idea that the universe may be a totality of ‘nothing’, in some sense,has been discussed for quite a number of years, especially in the context of the‘big bang’ theory of creation, where the total energies of matter (positive) andgravitation (negative) could cancel each other out. This is the kind of reasoningbehind the statement of the science-writer, Peter Atkins, that ‘the seeminglysomething is elegantly reorganized nothing, and … the net content of theuniverse is … nothing’.
However, to find the most fundamental possible theory,we must go even further, and state that the universe and everything we canpossible experience or conceive is also
nothing. No other position isextreme or uncompromising enough to be able to explain
1.2 The Genesis of Number
As we have said, many scientists today believe that the concept of nothing has afundamental role to play in an understanding of the universe and its contents. Itis, for example, often stated that the universe itself could have emerged as aquantum fluctuation from an essentially zero state, and that the total zero energyis maintained by the total positive mass energy being equated numerically to thenegative gravitational energy generated by this mass through a special