February 20, 2012, 7:28 PM —
If you took enough philosophy in college it's extremely likely you came to despise Jean-Paul Sartre, or at least felt some annoyance at the damage his writing did to both Being and Nothingness.
(Briefly – and as accurately as I can bear to relate it – Sartre ruined the reputation of existentialism, of Being and of Nothingness by arguing the only things that can Be are those we perceive and that Nothingness has only itself to blame for our not noticing it, which is the reason it doesn't exist.*)
Nothingness, it turns out, is a lot more complicated than that. Worse, it's more complicated even than Sartre made it (though he did stick to the guideline that requires great philosophers to present ideas at least 15 percent more complicated than they are able to write clearly enough for anyone else to understand).
A video of a 2009 Krauss lecture on nothingness got more than a million hits on YouTube and inspired the just-published A Universe from Nothing, according to an NYT story this morning that violated the Bad Philosophical Writing Ratio by presenting a number of very complicated ideas but explaining them clearly.