The Problem of “Empty Space”

Empty space

Reference: Disturbance Theory


Einstein’s theory of relativity has been highly successful in resolving the problem of space at cosmological dimensions where the substance is matter, but it failed utterly at atomic dimensions, where the substance is field. For the rest of his life Einstein struggled to come up with a theory that applied to atomic dimensions.

Einstein took an incisive look at the problem of space in the essay Relativity & Problem of Space [1]. This is a remarkable essay written in 1952, just three years before his death. Einstein’s essay  assumes the following viewpoint.

The physical universe is OBJECTIVE and the mental considerations are SUBJECTIVE. Therefore, any understanding of the physical universe is subjective. Time is a conceptual ordering principle of the experiences of the individual. Objectivity of time is established when more than one person reacts to the events taking place. The success of Newton’s mechanics establishes the objectivity of space because it provides broad experience of space as a physical reality.

Einstein declared that space remains after all matter is removed. And when electromagnetic field was established as a more basic substance, Einstein declared further that space remains after both field and matter are removed.

Thus, Einstein disagreed with the philosophical view of Descartes that space is identical with extension, but extension is connected with bodies; thus there is no space without bodies and hence no empty space.

Einstein saw “empty space” as an independent physical reality that remained after field and matter were removed.



The Disturbance theory believes that labels, such as, “space is physical and, therefore, objective,” or “time is mental and, therefore, subjective” are unnecessary because the universe is an integrated whole. The physical and mental realities are attributes of the universe that are not independent of each other. The mind is not separate from the universe, which it observes. Life is an aspect of the universe that is aware. In short, the universe it is inherently continuous, harmonious and consistent in all its aspects. It is thus aware of itself.

Einstein believed in the consistency of observations to be the criterion of objectivity. But consistency is inherent in the universe, and the universe is naturally objective.  Subjectivity is the failure to observe the continuity, harmony and consistency of the universe.

The universe is what it is. Its perceptions are what they are. The essential criterion of objectivity is continuity, harmony and consistency among what is observed.

This criteria of objectivity also establishes the basis of maths and logic in the universe.



We measure the gap between objects by estimating the sum of extensions of material objects that will fill that gap. We suppose space to be rigid like matter. Mathematically, we think of unbounded space. But this “unbounded space” is a mental visualization of a rigid box of infinite dimensions. Thus the concept of space derives from the observation of extensions of substance.

We have been visualizing substance as rigid matter. This consideration changes with the discovery of electromagnetic field as a more basic substance. Empty space is then the observation of extensions of  invisible electromagnetic field. This field was not known to Descartes when, based on the consistency of philosophic ideas, he boldly asserted that there is no empty space. If he were here today, he would have been highly satisfied with this evolution of substance.

Einstein’s concept of space [3] has mathematically postulated properties that are borrowed from matter as substance. We may instead borrow properties from electromagnetic field as more basic substance  to get accurate concept of space. However, this raises the question about the extensions of electromagnetic field. How is the electromagnetic field bounded?

Einstein notes,

The drawing of attention to the vacuum in a mercury barometer has certainly disarmed the last of the Cartesians. But it is not to be denied that, even at this primitive stage, something unsatisfactory clings to the concept of space, or to space thought of as an independent real thing.

A vacuum in a mercury barometer is not entirely empty. When there is no matter, there is electromagnetic field. However, this field is bounded by the glass of the barometer. What bounds the field when there is no matter? The answer to this question leads us to the concept of EMPTINESS. Objectivity lies in recognizing that beyond matter lies the field, and beyond field lies the emptiness of no substance.

“Empty space” is extension of the electromagnetic field, which is bounded by EMPTINESS of no substance.



True emptiness must be empty of “space” also. When we perceive space to be the extension of substance then there is no space in the absence of substance.  This argument brings consistency between physics and philosophy. However, there seems to be resistance to the idea of EMPTINESS in the scientific community. It is up to the scientific community now to critically reexamine the long held concept of space using the wisdom provided by philosophy.

EMPTINESS would be the absolute zero of substance; and this would mean, no frequency, no wavelength, no period, no inertia, no space, no time, and no energy. It is the ultimate reference point for substance and all its characteristics. Emptiness may be difficult to conceive because it implies no awareness as well.

EMPTINESS is the absence of substance and all its characteristics.



The universe of substance is bounded by emptiness of no substance.  The concept of emptiness lies in the domain of philosophy. But for physics, emptiness acts as a reference point from which the substance of the universe may be understood in its totality.

The above understanding leads to the following ideas.

“Empty space” is not really empty. There is electromagnetic field present.

There is no emptiness in an atom. The atom is filled with electromagnetic field and matter.



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  • vinaire  On December 28, 2017 at 6:38 AM

    In the past the concept of space was found to be inadequate only in the context of inertia. The problem with the concept of space has now definitely arisen in the context of atomic dimensions.

    From disturbance theory point of view, “empty space” represents the extensions of some invisible substance. The problem of space reduces to discovering and understanding that substance.

    The scientific community has yet to accept that “empty space” = field.

  • vinaire  On December 28, 2017 at 6:38 AM

    With the discovery of field it is possible to make Newton’s and Einstein’s physics consistent with philosophy. Descartes argued, “Space is identical with extension, but extension is connected with bodies; thus there is no space without bodies and hence no empty space.” We can say that “empty space” is actually the extension characteristics of the invisible field substance. Time is basically the “change” aspect of the substance. Space and time are not independent but related through substance.

    Substance has inertia. The reference point of zero inertia may be stated as “absence of substance” or “absence of field and matter”. This mean using a “field” of zero frequency as the reference. This is the reference point of EMPTINESS.

    The limitation of the theory of relativity is that it uses the basis of light that does not have infinite velocity, meaning it has appreciable inertia. This limitation can be corrected by using the reference point of Emptiness instead of light.

  • vinaire  On December 29, 2017 at 9:09 AM

    I have revised this essay extensively (12/26/2017).

    I have further clarified this paper (12/29/2017).

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