Thursday, April 15, 2010

More Zero Point Stuff.

The three Zero Point Energy books progressed to a stack in the hall – ready to go down to one of the bars in Makrigialos that keep books to loan out to customers – but then I decided to bite the bullet and have another go with them. There’s certainly some interesting real science in them, like the Casimir effect, Casimir batteries, the possibility of solid-state rectification of ZPE and the Alcubierre warp drive. The problem I have is sorting the nuggets of gold from the crap-heap. The book that first detailed the stuff above included a piece by one Richard Boylan Ph.D suggesting that declassifying ZPE technology would be a good thing – that would be the ZPE tech the Americans obtained from ‘Star Visitors’, which included antigravity tech. Oh dear. It all read very coherently, but it was like a post I once read on the Asimov’s message board – a perfectly coherent explanation by a guy of why he believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

This sort of stuff puts me in mind of the state of play a few centuries back as real scientists researched electricity, magnetism and electric fields, and as new technology began to result from them. Whilst the real scientists worked with real problems and conducted real research, a whole crop of pseudo-scientists grabbed these new shiny toys and attributed to them the kind of properties previously attributed to holy relics, bathing at Lourdes or rubbing yourself down with damp celery to cure leprosy. Newspapers of the time were full of adverts for electrical or magnetic treatments to deal with every ailment from gout to cholera. Of course out of that crap-storm came some real stuff, like X-rays, ultraviolet light skin treatments (I choose those because we’ve been watching Casualty 1900s).

Here, according to the book I’m reading now, are the paradigm camps regarding ZPE:

1. Quantum physics is wrong. Quantum events can be explained classically using self-fields. ZPE does not exist.

2. Relativity is wrong. A material-like ether exists.

3. Quantum physics is correct, but ZPE is a theoretical artefact; it is not real.

4. The ZPE physically exists, but its magnitude is too small to be an appreciable energy source.

5. The ZPE physically manifests large fluctuations, but they cannot be tapped because of entropy; they are random and ubiquitous like a uniform heat bath.

6. The ZPE is a manifestation of chaos in an open nonlinear system. Under certain conditions it can exhibit self-organisation and therefore become available as a source.

7. The ZPE is a 3-space manifestation of electric flux from a physically real, fourth dimension of space. It can be twisted into our 3-space yielding alterations in the space-time metric. It can be tapped as a source, and doing so locally alters gravity, inertia and the pace of time.

I think I can live with number 7, just so long as the tech doesn’t come from greys from Alpha Centauri or secret Nazi projects, just so long as there are no homeopathic, acupuncture or crystal healing miracles involved, just so long as the Zero Point Field isn’t God and our souls don’t transmit to the fourth dimension when we die etc etc etc.


Aperion said...

1. This manages to be wrong thrice. QM is one of the most tested theories, Bohm's Pilot wave theory is QM also, and ZPE is real and valid.

2. At least this is only wrong twice.

3. Getting better only wrong once, if it is a mathematical artifact it would be difficult to explain the sudden and short lived appearance of new particles in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)experiments. When you smash protons and you get all these exotic particles that annihilate from an anti-particle collision, where does the anti-particle come from?

4. Likely true for now.

5. Maybe.

6. I think you mean Quantum Foam here, not ZPE. I suppose you can make an argument that the foam can exist because of the non-zero background that results from ZPE.

7. There is no 3-space/4-space issue, there s simply spacetime. The word electric flux also raises suspicion why just the electromagnetic force, and not the weak, strong or gravitational?

This post has got me thinking though.

kai said...

While you're on this tangent - have a look into (if you haven't already) Hawing Radiation

It's similar to ZPE, however it's got a solid base in theory, where like ZPE particle and anti-particle pairs come into existence near the event horizon of a black hole and instead of annihilating themselves again, leaving a net energy gain of zero, one falls into the black hole and one escapes, giving the appearance of the black hole emitting energy.

Anonymous said...

Neal, all very interesting, but I suggest that you cheat, just like most SF writers.

We know that FTL travel is theoretically not possible yet that hasn't stopped a myriad books side-stepping it by postulating hyper-space drives, wormhole tunneling or other unlikely (or impossible) devices to shift their characters around the otherwise unbridgeable distances of space.

OK, ZPE is iffy to say the least, and any energy obtained would be insignificant. So - instead of worrying about how to get more from contemporary theory, tackle the problem from the other end.

Shift the zero point. Get the omniscient Gordon or someone to explain how 'other space' has different constants and in at least one zero is either lower (allowing a greater potential energy to be tapped) or higher - allowing our space/energy to be tapped from 'outside' with the side-effect of energy wave-forms/information to get into their universe.

An 'as we do unto others, so other others do unto us' scenario. Sort of like the Eric Frank Russell plot twist finale in 'The Waitabits'.

Could be fun.

Matt said...

posted this on the earlier entry, but it really should be here:

I really enjoy how Stephen Baxter integrates vacuum density and the cosmological constant into his Xeelee Sequence/Universe.

IMO, this is a really eloquent approach without nitpicking into whether one can draw ZPE from vacuum. He acknowledges the premise and integrates it with Guth's multiverse stuff without delving into too much overt law breaking.

Both the Xeelee Nightfighter Discontinuity Drive ( and the Xeelee Ring as a narrative device( are really interesting to me.

The big picture idea I like about this pokes at whether the vacuum density of our patch in the 'Guthian' quilt is responsible for seeding our universe with the array of matter that resulted in complex structures, and engendered life suited for the matter 'distribution' in our visible cosmos.

In going through the Ring, he alludes to other patches in the multiverse quilt having different vacuum densities and tech like the Discontinuity Drive not quite working on the other side of the Ring. Also the matter which life is based around being different, etc.

If you haven't read the Xeelee sequence, pick up Ring and his book of shorts Vacuum Diagrams. Very cool way of telling the cold death story and the engineered flight of baryonic life out of our cosmos.

Or, if you want the whole sequence together, I just noticed a Xeelee Omnibus is coming out soon:

also, theres always apocalypse as-narrative-device due to vacuum metastability which is pretty neat :)

Graeme said...

But what if our souls do transmit to the fourth dimension when we die?

Neal Asher said...

I do of course cheat in my other books, but in this case the suspension of disbelief required is my own. I'd rather write Van Vogt than Von Daniken!