Nothing by Jeremy Webb

This book (published 2013) about nothing sounds like a plain oxymoron. However, there are fascinating possibilities in the concepts of emptiness and non-existence. Scientists have suspected for centuries that ‘nothing’ may be the key to understanding absolutely everything, from why particles have mass to the expansion of the universe – so without nothing we’d be precisely nowhere. Absolute zero (the coldest cold that can exist) and the astonishing power of placebos, light bulbs, superconductors, vacuums, dark energy, ‘bed rest’ and the birth of time – all are different aspects of the concept of nothing. The closer we look, the bigger the subject gets. Why do some animals spend all day doing nothing? What happens in our brains when we try to think about nothing? With chapters by 20 science writers, including top names such as Ian Stewart, Marcus Chown, Nigel Henbest, Michael Brooks, Paul Davies and David Fisher, this fascinating and intriguing book revels in a subject that has tantalised the finest minds for centuries, and shows there’s more to nothing than meets the eye. Perhaps, after all, there is no such thing as nothing.

Follow up with The Void (Oxford, 2007) by Frank Close (

Also reach for The Book of Nothing (2001) by John D. Barrow (

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 ‘In Our Time’ broadcast The Vacuum of Space available as a podcast at Excellent contributions from Frank Close, Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Ruth Gregory. Even the seemingly emptiest location in outer space may be a seething matrix of quantum fluctuations. In which case there really is no such thing as nothing.

256 pages in Profile Books

ISBN 978-1846685187

Jeremy Webb

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