Matter, Void and Space (old)

In this essay, we define some common concepts from the viewpoint of physics. The most common concept is MATTER.  Matter is something that can be sensed. The opposite of matter is VOID that cannot be sensed. Matter and void, thus, form a duality.


But there is SPACE that is neither matter nor void. Space is not void because we can sense it. Space is not matter because it still exists as a perfect vacuum when all matter is removed. Space, thus, forms a region between matter and void.


In other words, space consists of things that can be sensed but which are not matter. We identify such things as light and gravity. The objective observation is:

Matter is that which is substantial enough to be sensed.

Space is absence of matter, but it still consists of light and gravity that can be sensed.

Void is the absence of anything that can be sensed.



We use the word SUBSTANCE as a broad category for things that are physically substantial enough to be sensed. Matter, light and gravity fall under this category of substance. Traditionally, matter has been viewed as a substance, but not light and gravity. This has been a source of much confusion.

Newton did view light as substance but it was seriously questioned by the wave theory. Faraday did view force (hence gravity) as substance, but it was overruled by Maxwell. Today we are not sure if light and gravity are particles or wave.

What sets matter apart from light and gravity is its property of center of mass. Newton’s mechanics is based on this property. Light and gravity are also substance but they do not have centers of mass. The objective definitions are:

SUBSTANCE is anything that is substantial enough to be sensed.

MATTER is a substance that has the property of center of mass.

LIGHT and GRAVITY are substances that do not have the property of center of mass.

VOID is that which cannot be sensed.


Force and Density

A substance is substantial because it can be sensed. That sense of substantiality may be described by the concept of force. And the degree of substantiality may be described by the concept of density or mass. The objective definitions are:

FORCE is the sense of substantiality of substance.

DENSITY or MASS is the degree of substantiality of substance.



Space consists of matter, light and gravity. In other words, space consists of substance. Descartes had argued that space is “the sense of extension”. This was explained by Einstein in “Relativity and the Problem of Space” as follows:

Descartes argued somewhat on these lines: space is identical with extension, but extension is connected with bodies; thus there is no space without bodies and hence no empty space. 

Matter has space which it occupies. Similarly, light and gravity also have spaces that they occupy. Space is sensed only because of the substance that occupies it. When there is no substance, there is no space. Beyond space is the void that cannot be sensed. The objective definition is:

SPACE is the property of extension of substance (matter, light and gravity). 


Current Physics

The above definitions differ from those used in current physics as follows.

(1) Current physics confines itself to matter, light (electromagnetic radiation) and gravity but it does not categorize them as substance. Therefore, there is no general category in current physics for things that can be physically sensed.

(2) Current physics considers elementary quantum particles to be the ultimate constituents of matter, light and gravity, but it does not look at them as substance either. Therefore, physics goes deep into abstraction where boundaries are blurred between things that can be sensed and those that are merely imagined.

(3) Current physics does not differentiate between space and void because it does not look at space as the extension of things that can be sensed. It treats space as an abstract continuum that can curve and bend like rigid matter. 

(4) In short, current physics reduces matter to the idea of discrete particles, and void to the idea of a malleable continuum. The duality of matter and void is no longer as distinct as it once used to be. 

This brings up the lack of clear definition in current physics for the words particle and continuum. This is taken up in the next chapter.


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  • vinaire  On September 15, 2019 at 6:35 AM

    Until physics is grounded in physical senses it is very difficult to make sense out of it. The precise definition of SUBSTANCE is very important for physics.

    The missing definition in physics has been of SUBSTANCE. That has led to a mis-definition of SPACE.


  • vinaire  On September 20, 2019 at 1:31 PM

    A “substance” is anything substantial enough to be sensed. I believe that if we cannot sense anything that there is no physics. Only our senses make the reality substantial and physics possible.

    Physics, by disregarding the word “substance”, is disregarding the role of our senses.


  • vinaire  On December 28, 2019 at 11:05 AM

    Mass and energy are the fundamental aspect of substance. A substance is something substantial enough to be sensed. Therefore, substance is real and so are it’s aspects as mass and energy.

    As energy condenses it turns into mass. This is happening throughout the electromagnetic spectrum as frequency increases, and then with appearance of quantum particles, and then with the solidity of the nucleus of the atom. Mass seems to un-condense as it moves faster and faster and acquires energy.

    Mass and energy appears discrete because they are perceived only through atomic, chemical and gravitational interactions. For example, atomic weights are perceived through chemical interactions. Such interactions are discrete, and, therefore, the mass and energy determined through interactions are discrete too. Otherwise, mass un-condenses as energy, and energy is infinitely divisible. In other words, at the fundamental level, mass, energy and substance are a continuum.

    Space is the extent of substance. It varies as the extents of objects vary in terms of being small and large. The “empty” space is not really empty but consists of the extent of the flimsiest of substance. Overall space is the extent of the universe, which is infinite.

    Time is the duration of substance. It varies as the duration of objects vary in terms of being fleeting or lasting. In the absence of substance there is neither space nor time. Overall time is the duration of the universe, which is everlasting.

    The dimensions of space and time then combine to form all other thousands of characteristics of substance. They are discrete for those forms of mass, energy and substance that are discrete. But, at the fundamental level, space and time also form a continuum just like mass, energy and substance form a continuum.



  • vinaire  On December 28, 2019 at 11:19 AM

    Photon actually represents the cohesive density, of light as a continuum of certain frequency. It is different for different frequencies. It is not something stratified in space. It is actually uniform throughout the space for a certain frequency of light.


  • vinaire  On December 28, 2019 at 11:26 AM

    Electron does not exist except when observed through an interaction at atomic level. It is the dense energy of an atomic level interaction. This is the case with all quantum particles. Analogous to this are the atomic weights that are observed only through chemical interactions. They can be called “quanta” too. Therefore, the concept of quantum applies to interactions only.


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