Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gravity and Light from the Vacuum

My friend Lee Price recently sent me two interesting articles that have appeared at over the last couple of weeks, here's the links:

The above graphic comes from the first article, which was published November 17, 2011. Here's a few paragraphs:
Scientists at Chalmers University of Technology have succeeded in creating light from vacuum – observing an effect first predicted over 40 years ago. The results will be published tomorrow (Wednesday) in the journal Nature. In an innovative experiment, the scientists have managed to capture some of the photons that are constantly appearing and disappearing in the vacuum.

The experiment is based on one of the most counterintuitive, yet, one of the most important principles in quantum mechanics: that a vacuum is by no means empty nothingness. In fact, the vacuum is full of various particles that are continuously fluctuating in and out of existence. They appear, exist for a brief moment and then disappear again. Since their existence is so fleeting, they are usually referred to as virtual particles.

Chalmers scientist, Christopher Wilson and his co-workers have succeeded in getting photons to leave their virtual state and become real photons, i.e. measurable light. The physicist Moore predicted way back in 1970 that this should happen if the virtual photons are allowed to bounce off a mirror that is moving at a speed that is almost as high as the speed of light. The phenomenon, known as the dynamical Casimir effect, has now been observed for the first time in a brilliant experiment conducted by the Chalmers scientists.

“Since it’s not possible to get a mirror to move fast enough, we’ve developed another method for achieving the same effect,” explains Per Delsing, Professor of Experimental Physics at Chalmers. “Instead of varying the physical distance to a mirror, we've varied the electrical distance to an electrical short circuit that acts as a mirror for microwaves.
Please read the whole article for an explanation of the above graphic and a description of the process they used to make these photons appear. The other article, written by Lisa Zyga and published November 28th at PhysOrg, looks at a theory which is only just beginning to be developed, which suggests that the gravitational effects of dark matter could be coming from the quantum vacuum as well. Here's the opening paragraph:
Earlier this year, PhysOrg reported on a new idea that suggested that gravitational charges in the quantum vacuum could provide an alternative to dark matter. The idea rests on the hypothesis that particles and antiparticles have gravitational charges of opposite sign. As a consequence, virtual particle-antiparticle pairs in the quantum vacuum form gravitational dipoles (having both a positive and negative gravitational charge) that can interact with baryonic matter to produce phenomena usually attributed to dark matter. Although CERN physicist Dragan Slavkov Hajdukovic, who proposed the idea, mathematically demonstrated that these gravitational dipoles could explain the observed rotational curves of galaxies without dark matter in his initial study, he noted that much more work needed to be done.
Gevin Giorbran, of course, author of the brilliant Everything Forever, loved theories like this which point to the underlying symmetry state from which our universe or any other springs. This same idea of there being an underlying sea of potential information which can be thought of as a point of indeterminate size, a perfectly balanced "outside the system" where Everything Fits Together, is central to my project as well.  Most recently, in Imagining the Ninth Dimension, and earlier in entries like Elvis and the Electrons and Imagining the Omniverse, we've talked about the idea proposed by John Wheeler, that there is a quantum foam in the supposedly empty vacuum: a churning mass of particles which appear and disappear. Last week, we looked at a project called the "Thrive Movement" which advances the cherished notion that there is free energy there for the taking within this underlying indeterminate quantum structure of our reality. How crazy is that idea? If gravity and light come from this vacuum, why not energy as well?

Enjoy the journey,

Rob Bryanton

Next: Quantum Weirdness and Water

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