Wayne Holland: The Irrational Universe

Cosmic Void

so much nothing ... July 27, 2007

Nothingness is the dominant universe principle, its essential fabric.

The cosmos, in other words, is primarily composed of void, cosmic void.

It is utterly pervasive.

Our solar system provides an apt example.

Based on the orbit of Pluto (ignoring for the moment its reduction to non-planetary status), it occupies a volume of space that is over 207 nonillion cubic miles.

A nonillion (in case you were wondering) is a one followed by 30 zeroes, and written out the number looks like this:

207,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

The sun, which contains over 99% of the mass of the solar system, takes up merely 339 some quadrillion cubic miles by comparison.

A quadrillion is a one followed by a paltry 15 zeroes, and that number looks like this:

339,000,000,000,000,000.

With the way numbers work, half the number of zeroes doesn't mean half the size. Every three zeroes increases a number a thousandfold. Everyone knows that a one followed by six zeroes (1,000,000) is a thousand times larger than the same number followed by three of them (1,000), not just twice the size.

We need but ponder this for the briefest moment, before we begin to catch a glimpse (but only a glimpse) of the incomprehensible difference between the volume of space the sun occupies compared to that of the entire solar system, and never once taking into account the enormous distance between it and the nearest star.

When we apply the same sort of math to the nothingness that is the atom, we find (by comparison) an even greater void twixt the nucleus and the electron swarm surrounding it.

So whether we look outward to the cosmos or inward to the atom, we see the same thing:

A whole lot of Nothing—apparently—is absolutely essential to the sustenance (not to mention the mere existence) of even the smallest amount of Something.

The cosmic void, the background of everything, is indeed a cosmic void.