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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost everything about nothing
Don't be misled by the title: inconsequential this little book is not, and some of the most profound questions are addressed here by Frank Close. What is empty space? From what did matter originate? Where are physicists now in their understanding of the laws that govern our universe?

As well as finding possible solutions to at least some of these questions, a...
Published on 19 April 2010 by Jon Chambers

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Much ado
The Very Short Introduction series are written by professors of the subject and are aimed at provoking cross-discipline intrigue in the reader that may incite further investigation and reading - and boy are they good at achieving exactly that; often they leave more questions than answers.

Nothing is an interesting concept; what is nothing? How do we define...
Published 23 months ago by J. Morris


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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost everything about nothing, 19 April 2010
By 
Jon Chambers (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nothing: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Don't be misled by the title: inconsequential this little book is not, and some of the most profound questions are addressed here by Frank Close. What is empty space? From what did matter originate? Where are physicists now in their understanding of the laws that govern our universe?

As well as finding possible solutions to at least some of these questions, a reading of Nothing left me reflecting that the giants of classical and modern physics, Newton and Einstein, weren't so off-the-wall after all, even when seemingly at their least inspired. Newton's insistence on the existence of ether anticipates the modern view that there is no such thing as 'empty' space - if all matter is removed then it is filled with energy, from which matter can be created at levels exceeding 2mc². (Elsewhere, in Close's words, 'an example of "ether" is an electric field.') Einstein's hypothesised Cosmological Constant (or Lambda force), meanwhile, which he considered his biggest mistake, may actually have been detected, even if its value is almost immeasurably small, and even if Lambda is no longer required to counterbalance gravitational attraction in an expanding universe (as opposed to the stable one of received opinion in 1915).

This is a challenging book from the very first chapter, in which early ideas about the vacuum are discussed. According to Close, the Aristotelian argument for the absence of a void expresses these in its clearest form, although I for one found Aristotle's reasoning more akin to word-play than irrefutable logic. Subsequent chapters tackle the next 2000 years' worth of ideas. Most of us non-physicists will probably be left reeling, but Close is attentive to the non-specialist, keeps his explanations jargon-free and uses wide-ranging analogies from impressionist art to roulette so that abstract (and bizarre!) concepts acquire more concrete form.

The text is accompanied by excellent graphics which illustrate, for example, how the angles of a triangle can total 270°, or how particles can materialise 'from nothing'. An absorbing, challenging and rewarding read, then, for anyone with an interest in current theory, CERN's Large Hadron Collider, the nature of the universe and the origin of everything in it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative!, 11 Nov. 2011
By 
kclam (Hong Kong, China) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nothing: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Nothing or void is an interesting and semingly simple topic. In fact, the vacuum is not void; it is filled with seething virtual particles. Vividly written, this book offers to examine the science of the nature of empty space and its implication for understanding the creation of cosmos.

In relation to the big-bang, there are very useful overview of the special/general theory of relativity and quantum theory. Modern physics suggests that it is possible that the universe could have emerged out of quantum fluctuation in the vacuum. Good read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Much ado, 18 July 2013
By 
J. Morris "Josh" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nothing: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
The Very Short Introduction series are written by professors of the subject and are aimed at provoking cross-discipline intrigue in the reader that may incite further investigation and reading - and boy are they good at achieving exactly that; often they leave more questions than answers.

Nothing is an interesting concept; what is nothing? How do we define nothing? If it is the absence of matter then there is still more to investigate as light, gravity and magnetism all function as expected in a vacuum. Frank Close writes well with relatable analogies that help to explain some pretty high-end concepts of quantum theory, string theory and multiple dimensions and universes.

All of these subjects are laid out in an extremely interesting way that help to explain that if Nothing ever existed, what came before? The book is incredibly thought-provoking but it did make my head hurt at several points with the concepts being truly abstract mind-boggling things. This may be familiar territory to quantum physicists and some mathematicians that spend hours in purely theoretical worlds, but I personally struggled with the depth of some of the concepts. This is not to detract from the book though, it is well written and the logic abounds.

However, I will say that this is one of the less interesting VSIs - touching upon others deeply; Magnetism, Relativity and finally Particle Physics - the latter also written by Frank Close - so much so that they should probably be recommended reading before you pick this one up!

Truly thought-provoking, but flits across multiple subjects and you can lose your way.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There is a lot to be said about Nothing, 18 May 2011
By 
Dr. Bojan Tunguz (Indiana, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nothing: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
"Nothing" seems to be the simplest of all notions, apparently requiring no thought whatsoever. It is what remains where everything is taken away. But a closer scrutiny reveals that "nothing" is not trivial as it may first seem. Is it physically possible to achieve such a thing as the absence of all matter? Even if possible, is what remains a truly empty space? And what is space anyway - is it possible to talk about it in the absence of matter? It is these and related questions that this short book tries to answer. It takes the reader on a journey from philosophical and speculative ideas of classic antiquity, to the most advanced frontiers of modern theoretical and experimental Physics. For a book of its size it covers a lot of ground. It explains where the notion that "the nature abhors vacuum" comes from, and how it took almost two thousand years to refute it by actually creating the first known artificial vacuum. The book explains how the ideas about the vacuum have evolved over the centuries, and in particular what an effect the discoveries of quantum mechanics and general relativity have had on it. Today we believe that even the perfect vacuum is strictly speaking not completely empty, and it is a rather complicated and complex entity. The book concludes with some of the current Physics speculations and how they may pertain to our ideas about "nothing."

The book is written in an interesting and easy-flowing style, and it does not overwhelm the reader with technical details and arcane jargon. There are hardly any equations in it, and the ones that are present are straightforward and used in order to illustrate a point that otherwise would be too cumbersome to describe. Overall, this is a very good book with a fresh and engaging perspective.
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4.0 out of 5 stars DEALS WITH THE PHYSICS OF EMPTYNESS, NOT "NOTHING", 11 April 2015
By 
Yehezkel Dror (Jerusalem Israel) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Nothing: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Avant-Garde Politician: Leaders for a New Epoch

This short book well discusses the physics of "emptiness," though neglecting its psychological and phenomenological problematics. Towards the end it winds up with some speculations on why is there anything, such as "the compact universe emerged from the era of quantum gravity, which is when time took over from imaginary time" (p. 143). However, the real issue of "nothing" is why there exists anything at all. This is a matter for metaphysics and philosophy of the mind to ponder, not for physics - which has more than enough to do to try and understand what is, such as the nature of black energy and material.

To the credit of the author, he mentions that our view of reality is "based on our macroscopic sense of time and three space dimensions" (ibid), to which should be added the amazing ability of some humans to think in terms of imaginary concepts put into symbolic, usually mathematical language, such as multi-dimensionality and multiverses, as well as explaining reality in terms that seem "magic" for most of us, such as quantum physics. He also, wisely, refers to what is "far beyond our conceptual ability" (ibid).

But this is not enough. The idea of "nothing" is far beyond the domains of science. It requires exploration as part of metaphysics and of the philosophy of the embodies mind, which leads to recognition of inbuilt limits of maximal human understanding, including of "nothingness," however our specie dislikes this line of thinking (as in part taken up in my recent book).

This issue, put differently, also faces religions. No theology presumes to take up the question how God was created, discussing instead the transcendental in terms of negative theology and God as "eternal," beyond human understanding, and to be taken on faith based on revelation.

Accordingly, the book is mistitled: it should have been named "emptiness," with the distinction between it and "nothing" being explained in the introduction. A short introduction on "nothing" in its real enigmatic sense, even if there may not be much to say on it, is still waiting to be written for the Oxford Short Introduction Series.

Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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5.0 out of 5 stars highly readable explanation - but I will not spoil your enjoyment. Buy the book and read it for yourself, 2 Feb. 2015
By 
J. R. Taylor (Rochester, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nothing: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
A superb book if you are interested in the sub-atomic world and what it tells us about the universe as a whole(?). A question that has been posed by scientists since the ancient Greeks is 'What is is a vacuum? What is left when everything has been removed?' Professor Close gives a lucid, highly readable explanation - but I will not spoil your enjoyment. Buy the book and read it for yourself. It is very cheap and one of the best of this excellent series.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Duplicate, 9 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Nothing: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
The content of the book is excellent and highly interesting.

The physical format is very compact which makes for rather small print.

My big gripe is that this book is IDENTICAL to "The Void" by the same author in hardback and nothing in the description of this later book gives any clue to this.
So don't buy this if you have "The Void". The hardback is still quite compact and has bigger print.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Nice book - not too technical or in depth., 3 April 2015
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This review is from: Nothing: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Nice little book. Double check the size of this book as it is smaller than what you might call a conventional paper back and the type face slightly smaller. My eye sight is not "bad" but if you struggle to read smaller font sizes this might be a problem

Language used is easy to understand for someone like me who reads this kind of thing out of interest but does not study it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars not up to scratch, 9 Mar. 2014
By 
G. Gromble "grim" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nothing: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
frank close has written some extremely good popular science books. this is not one of them. it covers quite a bit of ground but seems to lack the vigour or clarity that his other tomes possess. disappointing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 5 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Nothing: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I loved it very easy to read, am going to get them all.
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Nothing: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Nothing: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by Frank Close (Paperback - 25 Jun. 2009)
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