Friday, December 9, 2011

The Glass is Always Full

Pour 8 ounces of water into a 16 ounce glass.

Is the glass half-empty or half-full?

If you say half-empty, people call you a pessimist.

If you say half-full, people call you an optimist.

I say, the glass is full: half with water, half with air.

If you pour out 4 ounces of water, or pour 8 more in, it doesn't matter, the glass is always full, only the proportions change.

What if you take the glass into outer space?  The glass is still full.  Even if you were to have a perfect vacuum with no matter in it, the glass still is filled with the electromagnetic field, and the gravitational field, and all the other fun stuff that inhabits "empty" space.

If you truly could eliminate everything from inside the glass, the forces on the outside surface would completely overwhelm any structural integrity and instantly crush the glass, so it would be no more.

As long as the glass is, the glass is always full.

This perspective will serves us well as we travel the minor dips and bumps on the Long Ascent.


  1. This is great, John. I like this perspective quite a lot. I don't know if you've read C.S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet, but the bit about the glass in space reminded me of it--probably because I just finished reading it yesterday. In the book, Lewis makes a particular note of redefining space not as an empty void, but as the heavens. I really enjoyed that about the novel--the notion that it's not this sort of desolate landscape, but it's this incredible, vibrant reality that essentially embodies the beauty of our universe. Your simple "empty" encapsulated that nicely.

    Of The Hands

  2. Oh wow, that takes me back... I read C. S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet over a decade ago. I had forgotten that book, it was quite interesting.

    If you really want an mind-blowing description of "empty" space, you should look into the concept "quantum foam" -- and no, it was a different John Wheeler that proposed it.