[The following article originally appeared in +quot;Frontier Perspectives+quot; (vol. 2 nu

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[The following article originally appeared in "Frontier Perspectives" (vol. 2 number 2, Fall/Winter 1991), the newsletter of The Center for Frontier Sciences at Temple University, Dr. Beverly Rubik, Director. The address of the Center is: Ritter Hall 003-00, Philadelphia, PA 19122. The e-mail address is v2058a@templevm (Bitnet) and v2058a@vm.temple.edu (Internet). This article is posted here with the permission of the Center.] QUANTUM FLUCTUATIONS OF EMPTY SPACE: A NEW ROSETTA STONE OF PHYSICS? October 23, 1990 Colloquium Presentation Harold E. Puthoff Senior Fellow in Physics Institute for Advanced Studies Austin, Texas My topic is about something called nothing, the vacuum. In fact, the so-called vacuum is not quite empty. Democritus was apparently the first known philosopher who proposed that matter was ultimately constructed of indivisible atoms suspended in the void, capable ofmotion by pushing aside other atoms and moving intovoids. On the other hand, Aristotle reasoned that nothing would affect a body in a complete void, and therefore space must be filled with a substance. In the 19th century this ancient philosophical discussion was raised to the level of a scientific debate that could be experimentally investigated in the problem of the propagation of electromagnetic waves. Scientists had invented the concept of the ether which pervaded all of space. A series of experiments was devised to detect the properties of the ether, the most well known of which is the Michelson- Morley experiment. The ether was never detected experimentally, so it was abandoned, and we were back to the notion of a true void. However, soon quantum theory came into being and revised this notion. Today the vacuum is not regarded as empty, but as full of energy. It is a sea of dynamical energy where virtual particles are continually being created and then dropping back into an unobservable state, like the spray of foam near a turbulent waterfall. The vacuum acts as a dynamical background determining the states of matter and their interaction. The most fundamental quantum concept is that the vacuum is fluctuating at a zero-point energy level, the ground state for vibration of an harmonic oscillator. The main characteristic of quantum theory is that everything is in this state of at least low level agitation. The amount of energy associated with that fluctuation is very small, on the order of half a photon's worth for each vibrational mode. If we consider the universe as a whole, it is like a giant cavity with many modes, with all directions of propagation, and having all possible frequencies. According to quantum theory each of those modes and frequencies has a tiny amount of zero-point energy associated with it. The sum total of all of the energy associated with all these possible modes is enormous, and can be shown to derive from the quantum fluctuation motion of charged particles distributed throughout cosmological space.[1] Since quantum theory predicts an awesome amount of this energy, why don't we observe many effects associated with it? The answer to this is analogous to the following. If there is a door standing in a complete void, it would not fall over, but just stand there. Similarly if you had two elephants come up and push on each side of the door with equal strength, it also would just stand there. If the elephants were invisible, you might not notice that anything had changed. Thus, the zero-point energy is so completely in balance that under ordinary circumstances its effects are unobservable. However, the Lamb shift offers physical evidence for the zero-point energy. Nobel laureate Willis Lamb showed a departure from theory of the actual frequencies of light emitted from the electron of an excited hydrogen atom. The naive calculation assumes that the atom is located in a void, but in fact it isn't. If the effects of the electromagnetic zero-point energy on the electron are taken into account, then there is a good match between theory and experiment. In 1948, Casimir, a Dutch physicist, predicted an effect that arises because of the fact that zero-point energy exists. The Casimir effect is considered to be the best demonstration of the zero-point energy. A metal slab is a boundary condition for electromagnetic wave propagation, including zero-point- energy electromagnetic waves. However, if a second slab is placed close to it, i.e., within a millionth of a meter, "empty" space pushes them together. All the zero-point modes can bounce off the plates and impart momentum to them. The effect of the pair of metal plates is to exclude modes from between them. Therefore, the radiation pressure tending to push the plates apart is overcome by much greater radiation pressure on the outside pushing them together.[2] This is no small effect, approaching a million newtons per square meter at small spacings. This phenomenon is observed in certain applications such as the scanning electron microscope where the emission tip for electrons is brought very close to the surface of a crystal. In a fluorescent lamp, the atoms are put into excited states by means of an electrical discharge. Originally it was thought that spontaneous emission of electromagnetic radiation was simply a property of atoms, but later it was realized that this so-called spontaneous emission is really not so spontaneous. It is actually stimulated by the background fluctuations that are continually agitating the atoms. If those vacuum modes that are causing the atom to emit spontaneously are missing, then the atom will stay in its excited state. It has been observed that the spontaneous emission time for an atom in a specially constructed cavity can be much greater than for one in free space, up to a factor of 42. Similarly, in a properly constructed cavity one can reduce the spontaneous emission time by a factor of 500 and speed atomic transitions. Spontaneous emission occurs only because the background, the vacuum, is always fluctuating. Vision, which depends upon spontaneous emission, is possible only because the background vacuum fluctuations are jiggling the atoms all the time. If someone could "pull the plug" on vacuum fluctuations, we would not see anything. Vacuum fluctuations also play a role in atomic stability. Consider the simplest atom, atomic hydrogen, a stable atom. A critical question has been, why doesn't the electron radiate its energy away and the atom collapse? The electrons in atomic ground states are in agitated states of motion, but not many have thought about why they don't radiate their energy away. As in the case with the Lamb shift, those working with atomic models usually do not take into account the fact that the atom is not in a void but amidst quantum fluctuations, with the opportunity to absorb energy from this background. There is one orbit for which the absorption just matches the emission, and that is the stable ground state orbit. Because of the presence of the zero- point fluctuations, the electron will continuously move around in response to them. The amount of energy radiated by an electron is equal to that which it absorbs when in the ground state. Thus, the atom is actually in a continuous interactive mode with the vacuum fluctuations continually being absorbed and re-emitted. Consequently atomic structure is actually sustained by background fluctuations.[3] Again, if one could "pull the plug" on the vacuum, all atoms would collapse. Vacuum fluctuations thus underlie some of the rules of quantum theory. Another area associated with vacuum fluctuations is gravity. Gravitational theory is still under development, whether we are talking about classical theory or general relativity. It is generally recognized that if we have a certain amount of mass it will warp space, and if we have warped space, particles will follow certain orbits. However, gravity is still at a descriptive level and needs further development. Attempts are being made to derive Einstein's equations from a more fundamental level. Consider, for example, Newton's law of gravity. Questions remain as to the particular value of the coupling constant G, where gravitational mass comes from, and why masses always attract each other. Why is the law of gravitation an inverse square law? Why can't gravity be shielded like electromagnetic fields? A fundamental theory of gravity should address these questions. In 1968 the famous Soviet physicist, Andrei Sakharov, made the then outrageous proposal that perhaps gravity was not a fundamental force, but rather was due to unbalanced zero-point fluctuation forces which arise in the vacuum in the presence of matter. Unfortunately he did not develop this idea further. I decided to examine it since I was doing vacuum fluctuation physics. Basically gravitational attraction between two bodies is primarily an attraction between the nucleons--protons, and neutrons, i.e., the heavy part of matter. We now know by modern theory that neutrons and protons are composed of quarks, charged particles that reside within them. The quarks themselves are moved around by the zero-point background fluctuations. Furthermore, since they are charged, as they are so jiggled, they emit radiation fields which other quarks also see. So an individual quark sees both the bare background zero-point fluctuation fields as well as fields associated with nearby fluctuating quarks. It is well known that if you have fluctuating charged particles, there is a certain interaction potential, the van der Waals forces, responsible for much of chemical binding. Following the Sakharov model, it occurred to me to take a look at the leading term of this potential to see whether that might not account for gravity as he suggested. The average force is found to be proportional to the square of the mass, for two identical particles, and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. The value of the proportionality constant turns out to be G, where G is related to the cut-off frequency of the background zero-point fluctuations. This is an already unified gravitational theory. This description of the gravitational force tells us why the gravitational constant is so weak; it depends inversely on the square of the cutoff frequency, which is very high. It also tells us why gravity is only attractive, because van der Waals forces in general are only attractive. The reason gravity cannot be shielded is that high frequency zero-point fluctuation quantum noise in general cannot be shielded. Hence, the application of zero-point fluctuations actually provides a deeper understanding of gravity.[4] These are essentially theoretical concerns, but there are also potential applications. There is a phenomenon associated with the Casimir effect that leads to the condensation of charge. Ordinarily, electrically charged particles of the same sign repel each other. To understand why the Casimir effect predicts charge condensation under certain conditions, consider the two metal plates in a vacuum which are attracted together by an inverse fourth law Casimir force. If two metal plates, both strongly charged, are put somewhat near each other, the electrical repulsion force would make them fly apart. However, at very small distances this inverse fourth law attractive force can overcome that repulsion force, no matter how much charge is on the plates. Casimir believed that this same attractive force might also be involved in holding the electron together.[5] However, the applicability of this goes beyond the elementary particle level; it could be applied for clustering larger amounts of charge in macroscopic phenomena. Under certain conditions when Casimir forces might overcome Coulomb repulsion, laboratory phenomena would reveal the sudden condensation of charge, a Casimir pinch effect, as it were. Condensed charge technology, pioneered in the corporate domain, may be explained in this way. Much laboratory evidence has already been collected on this condensed charge phenomenon. Present-day electronic devices have limitations due to difficulties in forcing charge carriers up to very high densities. However, with charge condensation phenomena these limitations are overcome. Charge condensation occurs in micro-discharges, similar to static electrical discharges, and involves kilovolt pulses of a billionth of a second and amps of current. Upon further examination, charge, rather than repelling, is seen to form into charge clusters. The parameters under which that occurs matches very closely with what the Casimir charge condensation effect predicts. Typical environments in which this occurs are certain field emission conditions, i.e., a metal tip in a strong electric field such that electrons are drawn out of the metal and cluster together. Theory predicts the possibility of charge clustering. If one blasts high-density electron currents having millions of volts of energy at a titanium foil target, the result is not Coulomb repulsion of the current elements with consequent diffusion of the elecrons. Instead, all the charge arrives at discrete points and the areas in between are undamaged. Such vacuum witness-plate marks are also observed in welding where instead of million volt beams there are 10 to 50 volt differences between electrodes spaced very closely together, and the voltage is raised until they spark. Again, one observes hot spots where most of the current comes out at very discrete sites, of the order of a million amps per square cm. It is considered anomalous. As the technology is improving, the current densities are still increasing which are harder to explain without a model like charge condensation. At the Institute for Advanced Studies we have generators designed to investigate this phenomenon. If one raises the voltage between two metal plates separated by a dielectric material until a spark discharge runs across it, under certain conditions one observes a small lightning stroke that is very rigidly confined. If one slowly applies low voltages, one sees more diffuse manifestations, but if one applies a high voltage very rapidly, instantaneous arcing is observed. Witness plates struck by these arc discharges show evidence for individual small craters with spaces between them. This phenomenon appears to be fundamental. Upon examining a propeller that was struck by lightning, we found it covered by the same small micron-size spots. Applications of this technology are presently being negotiated with various corporations and are in various stages of development. For example, it turns out that the highly condensed charge can propagate through a small device such as a hypodermic needle and create x-rays when it impacts on a metal. It turns out that the amount of energy involved in these tiny clusters is enormous. Rather than having a large x-ray machine that kills a patient on its way to treating a tumor, the whole x-ray generator inside of a hypodermic needle penetrates the skin, goes to the tumor site, and then irradiates the tumor directly with lower voltage x-rays. We gave a medical x-ray company the blueprints for one of these devices, and they now have a hand-held device using condensed charge technology which is as effective as a large x-ray machine. Also, unlike many new electronic technologies such as semiconductors which are very expensive, this phenomenon is quite simple and economical. One can also use condensed charge technology to generate radio frequencies for use in radar devices. A prototype is being developed for an aerospace corporation for testing. Another development is a TV set that is a flat panel display. Such a TV set would work by means of a whole series of channels down which the charge clusters travel, emitting their electrons, which then pass through control plates to produce the appropriate colors and intensities. This concept of flat panel display technology is well understood, but has not yet become available because there have not heretofore been intense enough electron sources that could be used as power sources. By understanding the role that quantum fluctuations play in condensing charge, we see that many new applications are possible, several of which have been patented.[6] One remaining important question is whether there is any way to actually obtain energy from the zero-point fluctuations. A decade ago that would have been thought of as very controversial. Many have expressed doubts or considerations that this would violate the laws of physics. However, a method for extracting electrical energy from the vacuum by cohesion of charged conductors is presently in the literature. How can that possibly work? Consider the simple case of two metal plates in outer space. As they begin to move together, they eliminate more of the modes in between. The zero-point energy that starts dropping out of those modes is converted to kinetic energy as the plates move together. They get closer, and when the plates hit, they create heat. In the Casimir effect we thus already have the conversion of vacuum energy to actual measurable useful energy. There is no violation of energy conservation. R.L. Forward, at Hughes Research Laboratories, proposed a similar device involving a spring form which would be compressed together by the vacuum forces.[7] The spring is under stress with charge distributed over its volume with an associated electric field around it, and the vacuum pushes it together via the Casimir force. As this occurs, the fields around the device increase which can be used as useful energy, e.g., to drive current through a battery. This output represents one cycle of the device, but one needs to do work on it for the next cycle. If the devices are cheap and disposable, then we could use them sequentially and discard them. However, if it takes more energy to make those devices, then it is impractical to discard them. On the other hand, condensed charge technology may offer another possibility. Electronic charge is brought close together in some form of plasma, and then the Casimir pinch effect condenses it even more. There are stores of energy in that condensed charge, which can be liberated by a number of techniques. Various laboratories have reported anomalous energy gains associated with such charge condensation phenomena. However, these are very rare and very hard to reproduce, so at this point they remain anomalies. Only a decade ago research of this type was unthinkable, but today more is known about quantum fluctuations of vacuum, and people are seriously looking at this kind of work.[8] When one utilizes solar energy, it is not free in the sense of violating physics, but it is free in the sense that you pay only a small price for it. The condensed charge cycle appears to be similar. A certain amount of energy is put in to excite a plasma, making a very dense plasma to reach the Casimir charge condensation point. The source is not the sun but the vacuum zero- point fluctuations. If one satisfies the conditions that the energy used to make the plasma is less than what the vacuum put in to make condensed charge clusters, then one gains. This is quite similar to ordinary fusion. There a dense plasma is made, which takes a lot of energy, but at a certain point, the nuclear force then provides more energy than one put in. In the condensed charge process the Casimir force plays the role of the nuclear force. Furthermore, in the condensed charge device there is the possibility of a direct electrical output. The condensed charge cycle zero-point energy device, if workable, will be pollution free as far as we can tell. Should this source prove utilizable, the vacuum zero-point fluctuations are available everywhere, rendering the notion of the central power plant obsolete. This would be the most positive possible outcome that could be expected of vacuum energy physics leading to dramatically new technology. With cautious optimism, the most appropriate statement concerning this possibility was perhaps made by a Soviet science historian, Podolny, who said, "It would be just as presumptuous to deny the ability of useful application as it would be irresponsible to guarantee such application". Only the future will reveal to what use humanity will eventually put this remaining fire of the gods, the quantum fluctuations of empty space. References ********** 1. Puthoff, H.E. "Source of Vacuum Electromagnetic Zero-Point Energy", Physical Review A 40 (9), 4857-4862, (1989). 2. Milonni, P.W., R.J. Cook, et al. "Radiation Pressure from the Vacuum: Physical Interpretation of the Casimir Force", Physical Review A 38, 1621 (1988). 3. Puthoff, H.E. "Ground State of Hydrogen as a Zero-Point-Fluctuation Determined State", Physical. Review. D 35, 3266 (1987). 4. Puthoff, H.E. "Gravity as a Zero-Point-Fluctuation Force", Physical Review A. 39, 2333 (1989). 5. Casimir, H.B.G. "Introductory Remarks on Quantum Electrodynamics". Physica 19, 846 (1953). 6. U.S. Patent Nos. 5,018,180; 5,054,046; 5,054,047. 7. Forward, R.L. "Extracting Electrical Energy from the Vacuum by Cohesion of Charge Foliated Conductors", Physical. Review B 30, 1700, (1984). 8. Puthoff, H.E. "The Energetic Vacuum: Implications for Energy Research". Speculations in Science and Technology, 13(3), 247 (1990). ----------------------------------------------------------------------- Reply: This is based on an article in Physical Review A39 (1989), p.2333, which is simply wrong. The calculation of the averaged interaction potential in appendix B contains a bad approximation (a polynomial is approximated by the first two terms in its binomial expansion), which neglects terms that are of the same order as other terms that are kept. When the integral (eqn. B5 in this paper) is done carefully, the "gravitational" effect that Puthoff sees cancels completely; one is left with an inverse fourth power interaction with an extremely small coefficient, completely unobservable on the scales for which gravity is important. I have submitted a Comment to Phys. Rev. addressing this issue, which will probably be published sooner or later. In the meantime, two exercises for the interested reader: First obtain the journal in question. Then 1) Using the fact that 0<= 1 - cos x <= 2, obtain an upper and lower bound on the integral in equation (B5). Compare these bounds to Puthoff's result (B7). What is the largest distance for which the result claimed by this paper is inside these bounds? (Hint --- Planck length.) 2) Evaluate the integral (B5) exactly in terms of the sine integral Si(x). Using the standard asymptotic expansion of Si, compare the exact result to the result reported in this paper in the limit that the distance is large compared to the Planck length. Show that the difference includes a term that exactly cancels Puthoff's inverse square force. The basic idea of induced gravity --- gravity as a result of vacuum fluctuations --- is an interesting one, and some good work has been done in the area. But I'm afraid this ain't it.


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