“The vacuum is empty” Richard Feynman
According to Dick himself, this was his catchiest motto, but eventually he abandoned it for being as wrong as it sounds right.
There are several arguments in favor for space actually being a substance-like something rather than empty nothingness. This smells like ether, and thus many people who think themselves superior because they understand Einstein’s theory of relativity, hate this point of view. The orthodox relativity dogma holds that vacuum is sheer emptiness.
Space-time is indeed fundamentally based on something abstract. The very foundation cannot be some sort of “real” substance. I argue strongly for fundamental ‘relational’ abstractness in case of matter, space-time , and reality in general. However, fundamental space and time are not necessarily equal to the very physical space-time that we perceive and experiment in. The standard model of particle physics treats space much like an ether and for half a century by now. The recent discovery of the Higgs-ether has once again forcefully rehabilitated the despised Einstein ether.
The string-theoretical membrane of the universe, woven from strings: Is it the carpet we are on?
Hence, it is worthwhile to give arguments for why our space is actually something, some “substance”. The first time I did this via modeling cosmic inflation, the last time via The Einstein Expansion Paradox, which is the statement that “Space expands globally although it nowhere locally expands.” These arguments are still somewhat too abstract for many, so let me today try to give an argument that is much easier and that most people will get coherently together even after having ingested the one or the other much more substantiated substance, which is mostly the point at which these kinds of arguments arise, isn’t it?
The easiest argument is to argue with the beyond a shred of a doubt experimentally confirmed handedness, or helicity, or yet better “chirality”, of the so called weak force. The weak force is involved in nuclear decay’s for example. If a neutron decays into a proton and an electron, a neutrino will also be produced. This neutrino invariably spins the left way around, anti-clockwise on its own axis of propagation.
Spun Yarn for weaving carpets – either left or right handed.
I do not want to get into the involved particle physics and quantum complications and all that – many have tried to bring it down to a lay level recently again (due to the Higgs discovery), and they all pretty much failed miserably. It is just complicated – no way around it. Nobody really understands spin. But we do not need to get into any complications in order to understand the perhaps most interesting implication.
All we need to do is to accept that there is an interaction that in our universe always produces a left handed something. If space were mere emptiness, such would be impossible. There is nothing in true emptiness that can conceivably make a difference between left and right. You could mirror the whole universe, and it would not know the difference in case the vacuum were just empty. And I do not mean the usual “well vacuum is teeming with virtual particles popping in and out of existence”! Not even they make a difference if they are popping into existence inside a truly empty space where there is nothing telling them right from wrong, I mean left.
All mathematics, all physics, everything can be mirrored (even the “CPT” theorem), and indeed, there are parallel universes that look pretty much the same as ours, except for that the weak interaction always produces right handed neutrinos. What is the difference between these universes?
Space is in a sense the rug on which stuff happens. If you inspect a rug closely, you will see that the fibers it is woven from are often all left handed. Actually, I checked on my pullover I am wearing right now, and for the bacteria on it, the world is a right handed rug actually. Anyway, any modest agnostic expects a multiverse. In this vast thing, there are many niches, and in one tiny niche there is our universe. Our universe is in some sense fixed on something that is a rug with left handed fibers. The parallel universe I mentioned happens to be somewhere else, on a 'surface woven from right handed fibers'.
You can envision it as if the wrongly-handed neutrinos would turn against the direction of the rug’s fibers, trying to unravel them, immediately getting stuck in one. Only left handed neutrinos have a smooth ride in our universe.
Straw-man: “Apart from that you are talking absolute nonsense again today, wouldn’t the weak force lead to right-chiral neutrinos if the universal rug is made from left handed fibers?”
Well, perhaps, so what, this is entirely beside the main point the article wants to get across and a title like “Space is a Rug Knit with Right Wound Fibers” may sound like something else entirely.