The meaning of the word “Void” on a superficial level is simply “an absence” or “nothing”. However, this alone does not give any sense of direction to the word “Void”. Thus, this article will discuss “Void” in different connotation where it can be used.

To begin with, Void can have different implications in Science, Engineering and Technology, Arts, Music, Philosophy etc. With respect to Science and Engineering, Void could be used in reference to astronomy, composite materials, vacuum, mechanical engineering, mathematical coefficient, ratio, types, sets, etc. In the perspective of Arts, Void finds mention as character in films, music, comics, literature etc. However, Void is an important term used in Oriental philosophy (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc) where it is used to describe a state of being.

Square packing & Hexagonal packing

With reference to science and engineering, Void can be explained or discussed with reference to its meaning in the domain of science. In astronomy, the void is often referred as a cosmic void. These are described as vast spaces that exist between filaments (which are the largest-scale structures in the Universe), either contain no galaxy or very few galaxies. These cosmic voids have an average density of matter of less than one-tenth which is considered typical for a universe. Stephen Gregory and Laird A Thompson of the Kitt Peak national observatory were the first to discover it in the year 1978.

In composite materials, a void is described as a pore that could not be filled during manufacturing with polymers and fibers. They are a reflection of poor manufacturing and due to this, are not desirable in composite materials. The presence of voids can affect the mechanical property and lifespan of these materials. They degrade the interlaminar shear strength, longitudinal compressive strength as well as transverse tensile strength. Due to these voids, the material may develop cracks and allow for moisture infiltration into the material. Composite materials find numerous applications in defense and aerospace industries, and a 1-3% increase in void content may reduce the mechanical properties of the composite by up to 25%. Void is also an empty pocket that is sometimes created due to a faulty injection molding process.

Void is also used as a coefficient in nuclear engineering. The tern Void Coefficient (also called the Void coefficient of reactivity), is a number used to estimate the change in reactivity of nuclear reactor in the presence of voids (usually steam), which are formed in the reactor moderator or coolant. A nuclear reactor with liquid as a coolant or a moderator will have a void coefficient that is either negative (meaning reactor is under moderated) or positive (which means the reactor is over moderated). In reactors that do not use the liquid as a coolant or moderator, have a void coefficient of zero.

Void is also used in programming languages. ‘Void Type’ is derived from C and Algol68, and is a type for result of a function which returns normally, but does not provide a result value to its caller. In object oriented programming such as C++, a void is a guarantee that no object reference will have a null value.  In set theory, a void set is an empty set, i.e. a mathematical set with no inputs. Its size or cardinality is defined as Zero.

In philosophical context, Void has an important role. In simpler terms, it can be explained as a concept of manifestation of nothingness. This concept is relevant to several domains of metaphysics. This manifestation of absolute nothingness is linked with the contemplation of emptiness, and with human attempts for its identification and personification. There, the concept of Void, and similar ideas, have a significant recurrent presence in human expression, along with the ever expanding debates in academic, scientific and philosophy which surround the human conditions. Western mystical traditions have often argued about the concept of void, and discuss that the transcendent “Ground of being” or Nothingness could be approached through aphaeresis.

Oriental philosophy describe Void as “Shunyata”.  It is defined as emptiness and is well discussed and argued, especially in Buddhist texts. Its implication is multifold, depending on the doctrinal context. This concept of emptiness or Void is linked to the principle of ‘anatta’ in early Buddhism. With the passage of time, many difference philosophical doctrines developed within the folds of Buddhism to explain the philosophical meaning of Void or Shunyata or emptiness.  In Theravada Buddhism doctrine, Shunyata or Void refers to the non-self, including nature of five aggregates of experience and the six sense spheres.  Often it is also used to describe a meditative state of being. In the other form of Buddhism (Mahayana), Void refers to a belief that all things are void of intrinsic existence and nature.  It may also refer to a concept of empty awareness.

These were the few meanings of the term “Void” and its implication in various forms of knowledge.