In 2008 Catholic astronaut Heidemarie Stefnyshyn-Piper, while on an extravehicular walk outside the international space station, lost her $100,000 tool bag into the vacuum of space. It got a lot of press.
Well … it’s actually not a pure vacuum. Even in the deepest outposts of space a few atoms float around together with photons of energy flying through at the speed of light continuously.
Scientists remind us there is also what’s called a “quantum potential,” which exists at every point in the vacuum of our three-dimensional physical space. In it, under the proper conditions, matter and energy can literally materialize out of what we used to think of as absolutely nothing. The vacuum state is not truly empty but instead contains fleeting electromagnetic waves and particles that pop into and out of existence.
Scientists take this bizarre physical phenomenon quite seriously. It has actually been observed routinely in particle accelerators, but the conditions to create anything more than a scattering of subatomic particles would require extremely high energies and a control of the process far beyond any ability we now have.