Kristina Šekrst
Centre for Croatian Studies, University of Zagreb

Why is there something rather than nothing? seems like the most fundamental philosophical and physical question. Since proving that there is only nothing would be contradictory since we would be the ones observing it, the problem of explaining why there is not nothing remains, not only as a (meta)physical, but as a mathematical and a computational issue. Absence has been used in logic not only as a negation or as a certain modal concept of an empty world, but as an existential issue as well, where several non-classical logics have tried to raise and solve this issue. Along with the notion of nothing in mathematics and philosophy, the notion of infinity as its conceptual counterpart raised lots of issues as well, which can be seen in cosmological models in which the universe is an endless cycle of universes in collision with other ones, where time and space seem to be infinite.

In physics, and especially in cosmology, the question falls back to the issue of the symmetry of matter and anti-matter, where these should have annihilated each other, and since there was a billionth more matter than anti-matter, something - the 5%-matter universe we live in - was possible. Physical vacuum may not contain any matter, and in that sense it usually counts as “nothing”, even though it may contain physical fields. However, if we it were possible to create a spatial region without matter or fields, we would still have quantum fluctuations with a sea of virtual particles that come in and out of existence, and at any given instant the vacuum is full of such virtual pairs which cannot be directly observed but create measurable effects.

The goal is to go through certain quantum tunneling models from total empty geometries - a version of “nothingness”, while bearing in mind the fact that quantum particle generation requires pre-existing energy, so a speculation remains whether quantum mechanics could spontaneously create a universe (or multiple ones) from this pre-existing energy. This “nothingness” would still include laws of physics, which should be there even prior to the universe itself, which invokes philosophical issues of their independent reality. Eternal cosmological scenarios do not bother with nothingness and seem like a more elegant solution with great philosophical appeal, and in these the whole universe could pop into existence as well. The most fundamental question, therefore, seems not the question of the notion of somethingness and nothingness, but the question of the independent reality of physical laws, which could give us a strong insight into quantum computing and its possible computational success.