"Nothing comes from nothing" (Latin: ex nihilo nihil fit) is a philosophical concept first argued by Parmenides and intertwined with ancient Greek cosmology. This concept suggests that there is no transition from a non-existent world to an existent one, as creation cannot originate from nothingness.
In Aristotle's Physics, Parmenides' idea is presented as a question of why something would be created later rather than sooner if it came from nothing, concluding that it must either be created altogether or not created at all.
Lucretius, a Roman poet and philosopher, expounds on this concept in De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). He emphasizes that matter is necessary to create matter and that objects cannot spontaneously exist without a reasonable cause. This is exemplified by how specific species arise from specific seeds, demonstrating that every thing springs from a source that has the matter it requires. He also asserts that nothing can be produced from nothing, which is a key stepping stone to understanding nature and her laws.
In terms of modern physics, this notion aligns with the law of conservation of energy, which states that the total energy of an isolated system cannot change. Some physicists, including Lawrence Krauss, Stephen Hawking, and Michio Kaku, interpret 'nothing' as an unstable quantum vacuum that contains no particles, deviating from the philosophical conception of nothingness. Quantum mechanics proposes that pairs of virtual particles are continually being created from quantum fluctuations in the 'empty' space.
The concept has also influenced various works of fiction. It is referenced in Shakespeare's King Lear, John Gardner’s Grendel, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness, and the film Christopher Robin, among others. It is used in the 1965 film version of The Sound of Music in the song "Something Good" as a representation of Catholic philosophy concerning God's act of creation.
Thus, the idea of "Nothing comes from nothing" has had extensive influence on both philosophical and physical notions of creation and existence, as well as popular culture.