In Void: The Strange Physics of Nothing, physicist and philosopher James Owen Weatherall explores how physicists’ beliefs about nothingness have changed over several revolutionary periods.
The void, Weatherall argues, is physics distilled to its bare essence. If physicists can’t agree on the properties of empty space, they won’t be able to explain the physics of planets or particles either. Scientists have argued over nothingness since the early days of physics. Under the modern view of quantum physics, various fields pervade all of space, and particles are simply excitations, or waves, in these fields.
Weatherall serves readers a fairly typical buffet of physics theories, dishing up Newtonian mechanics, relativity, quantum mechanics and a small helping of string theory.
Exploring the physics of nothing demands quite a bit of wading through the physics of something, and it’s not always clear how the threads Weatherall is following will lead back to the void.