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    Can not be done (?)
    Posted on Friday, September 16, 2005 @ 23:06:07 GMT by vlad

    Science From an older SciAm article; Matt Visser of Washington University in St. Louis adds some technical details on why the science is sure we should not bother with trying to find a way to harness ZPE for useful, inexhaustible, clean power (if it were that clear & simple!):

    "The Zero Point Energy (ZPE) is an intrinsic and unavoidable part of quantum physics. The ZPE has been studied, both theoretically and experimentally, since the discovery of quantum mechanics in the 1920s and there can be no doubt that the ZPE is a real physical effect.

    The "vacuum energy" is a specific example of ZPE which has generated considerable doubt and confusion. In a completely empty flat universe, calculations of the vacuum energy yield infinite values of both positive and negative sign--something that obviously does not correspond to the nature of the real world.

    Observation indicates that in our universe the grand total vacuum energy is extremely small and quite possibly exactly zero. Many theorists suspect that the total vacuum energy is exactly zero.

    It definitely is possible to manipulate the vacuum energy. Any objects that change the vacuum energy (electrical conductors, dielectrics and gravitational fields, for instance) distort the quantum mechanical vacuum state. These changes in the vacuum energy are often easier to calculate than the total vacuum energy itself. Sometimes we can even measure these changes in the vacuum energy in laboratory experiments.

    In classical physics, if you have a particle that is acted on by some conservative force, the total energy is E = (1/2) mv2 + V(x). To find the classical ground state, set the velocity to zero to minimize the kinetic energy, (1/2)m v2, and put the particle at the point where it has the lowest potential energy V(x). But this result is only a classical approximation to the real world. Because the classical ground state completely specifies both the particle's speed (zero) and position (at the minimum), it violates the famous Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (m dv dx > hbar). Quantum physics, via the Uncertainty Principle, forces the particle to spread out both in position and velocity and so causes it to have an energy somewhat higher than the classical minimum. The ZPE is defined as this shift:

    E(ZPE) = E(quantum minimum) - E(classical minimum) > 0

    Classically, we can calculate the natural oscillation frequency that the particle would have if we were to give it a small push. Quantum mechanically, it is now an undergraduate exercise to use the Heisenberg uncertainty relation (more precisely, Schroedinger's differential equation) to show that

    E(ZPE) approx. = (1/2) hbar omega0

    where hbar is Planck's constant times and omega0 is the natural oscillation frequency. The ZPE in this sense shows up almost everywhere: it affects molecular bonds, condensed matter physics, small oscillations of any system.

    The next step is to realize that the electromagnetic field can be thought of as an infinite collection of coupled oscillators--one at each point in space. Again, the classical ground state is the case in which the electric and magnetic fields both must be zero. Quantum effects mean that this case does not hold true; there is also a Heisenberg uncertainty principle for electric and magnetic fields (it's a little more complex). The good news is that the potential for electromagnetism is exactly quadratic and so can be solved exactly. The bad news is that there is an infinite number of modes. Formally we can write

    (Electromagnetic vacuum energy) = sum over all modes (1/2) hbar omega(mode)

    The infinity in this equation is what excites the free lunch crowd (the modern descendants of the perpetual motion crowd), who envision an endless ZPE for humanity to tap into. Not quite, unfortunately..

    The first and most obvious problem is that there are other quantum fields in the universe apart from electromagnetism. Electrons, for starters, plus neutrinos, quarks, gluons, W, Z, Higgs and so on. In particular, if you do the calculation for electrons you will find that what are known as Fermi statistics give rise to an extra minus sign in the calculation.

    Adding minus infinity to plus infinity gives mathematicians nightmares and even makes theoretical physicists worry a little. Fortunately, nature does not worry about what the mathematicians or physicists think and does the job for us automatically. Consider the grand total vacuum energy (once we have added in all quantum fields, all particle interactions, kept everything finite by hook or by crook, and taken all the proper limits at the end of the day). This grand total vacuum energy has another name: it is called the "cosmological constant," and it is something that we can measure observationally.

    In its original incarnation, the cosmological constant was something that Einstein put into General Relativity (his theory of gravity) by hand. Particle physicists have since taken over this idea and appropriated it for their own by giving it this more physical description in terms of the ZPE and the vacuum energy. Astrophysicists are now busy putting observational limits on the cosmological constant. From the cosmological point of view these limits are still pretty broad: the cosmological constant could potentially provide up to 60 percent to 80 percent of the total mass of the universe.

    From a particle physics point of view, however, these limits are extremely stringent: the cosmological constant is more than 10(-123) times smaller than one would naively estimate from particle physics equations. The cosmological constant could quite plausibly be exactly zero. (Physicists are still arguing on this point.) Even if the cosmological constant is not zero it is certainly small on a particle-physics scale, small on a human-engineering scale, and too tiny to be any plausible source of energy for human needs--not that we have any good ideas on how to accomplish large-scale manipulations of the cosmological constant anyway.

    Putting the more exotic fantasies of the free lunch crowd aside, is there anything more plausible that we could use the ZPE for? It turns out that small-scale manipulations of the ZPE are indeed possible. By introducing a conductor or a dielectric, one can affect the electromagnetic field and thus induce changes in the quantum mechanical vacuum, leading to changes in the ZPE. This is what underlies a peculiar physical phenomenon called the Casimir effect. In a classical world, perfectly neutral conductors do not attract one another. In a quantum world, however, the neutral conductors disturb the quantum electromagnetic vacuum and produce finite measurable changes in the energy as the conductors move around. Sometimes we can even calculate the change in energy and compare it with experiment. These effects are all undoubtedly real and uncontroversial but tiny.

    More controversial is the suggestion, made by the physicist Julian Schwinger, that the ZPE in dielectrics has something to do with sonoluminescence. The jury is still out on this one and there is a lot of polite discussion going on (both among experimentalists, who are unsure of which of the competing mechanisms is the correct one, and among theorists, who still disagree on the precise size and nature of the Casimir effect in dielectrics.) Even more speculative is the suggestion that relates the Casimir effect to "starquakes" on neutron stars and to gamma ray bursts.

    In summary, there is no doubt that the ZPE, vacuum energy and Casimir effect are physically real. Our ability to manipulate these quantities is limited but in some cases technologically interesting. But the free-lunch crowd has greatly exaggerated the importance of the ZPE. Notions of mining the ZPE should therefore be treated with extreme skepticism."



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    "Can not be done (?)" | Login/Create an Account | 9 comments | Search Discussion
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    Re: Can not be done (?) (Score: 1)
    by Koen on Saturday, September 17, 2005 @ 01:19:35 GMT
    (User Info | Send a Message) http://no.nl/tesla
    Matt Visser: "In summary, there is no doubt that the ZPE, vacuum energy and Casimir effect are physically real. Our ability to manipulate these quantities is limited but in some cases technologically interesting. But the free-lunch crowd has greatly exaggerated the importance of the ZPE. Notions of mining the ZPE should therefore be treated with extreme skepticism."

    Matt Visser does not know if ZPE cannot be manipulated for our general benefit. It depends on the model of ZPE. For instance, there is QED (Quantum ElectroDynamics) and the "standard model" (that models ZPE as a probabilistic game where all kinds of particles can pop up out of nothing temporarily), and there is SED (Stochastic ElectroDynamics) developed by Boyer, Puthoff, Haisch, Ibison, Rueda.
    According to SED the ZPE is strictly electromagnetic and can account for effects such as mass and gravity.

    Different models of ZPE show differences in "what we can manipulate".

    Even Gerard 't Hooft (Dutch Nobel price winner and physicist) does not believe that the non-deterministic quantum world is the right model for micro-physics in the end, and you can for instance study Caroline Thomson's refutation of Aspden's work, such that David Bohm's deterministic theory on microphysics still stands. Werner Hofer has formulated the circular arguments that underly the ASSUMPTION of non-determinism in microphysics, so quantum physics is not necessarily the final answer. Hofer: "one assumes that an elementary particle-wave does not possess intrinsic POTENTIAL energy, only KINETIC energy. Therefore, the square of the wave function is interpreted as a probability function."

    Matt Visser does not take into consideration the more than 1 arbitrary choices in modelling physics. Therefore he is not in a position to proclaim ZPE cannot be a free lunch. If solar light can be a free lunch, why not ZPE?

    Just to give you an idea how:
    in http://xxx.lanl.gov/ftp/physics/papers/0509/0509068.pdf
    the authors describe how a strong inhomogeneous electric field influences the gravity of objects (electro-gravity).
    In terms of SED: the strong inhomogeneous electric field destroys the isotropy in the interaction between the ZPF (Zero Point Field) and the test-object, such that the resulting anisotropic ZPF interaction yields a force proportional to the mass of the test object.

    Voila, here's our free lunch.


    Re: Can not be done (?) (Score: 1)
    by ElectroDynaCat on Saturday, September 17, 2005 @ 07:08:47 GMT
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    If the history of technological progress is any indication, we can expect a breakthrough in FE/OU merely by the fact that its been proven to be impossible by rigorous logical arguement in the scientific establishment.

    Three years before the Wright Brothers first powered flight, the mainstay of Victorian Theorectical Physics, Simon Newcomb "proved" that powered flight was impossible.

    The Natural Philosophers of the early Nineteenth Century proved that electricity was a dangerous and uncontrollable force that would only be a Parlor Trick.

    It was thought impossible to alter the genetic code, computers were impractical except for large institutions, and the Internet completely out of the question.

    Should I go on?

    The more the scientific establishment comes up with "airtight " cases against FE/OU, the more likely the ZPE will be a useful energy source someday.

    Re: Can not be done (?) (Score: 1)
    by bender772 on Saturday, September 17, 2005 @ 08:56:56 GMT
    (User Info | Send a Message) http://www.suppressedscience.net
    Mr. Visser may do well to apply the same skepticism that he is showing with respect to ZPE and free energy claims to his own tactit assumptions: that general relativity and the standard cosmological model that builds on it are correct. There is significant evidence that they are not. In particular, the evidence for a preferred inertial frame from gas-mode Michelson-Morley experiments suggests that special relativity and everything that builds on it (general relativity as well as quantum electrodynamics) is fundamentally flawed.

    Re: Can not be done (?) (Score: 1)
    by Rothhaar on Monday, September 19, 2005 @ 21:37:11 GMT
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    There's an easy way to pull the rug out from beneath a scoffing academic. Just ask them to explain magnetism. Ask for a coherent definition of energy. Demand clarification on exactly what electricity is. Somewhere in the gap between what they pretend to know and what they really know is the real possibility for zero point energy. Nobody can tell me that in a universe in which everything large and small is in motion, there are not ever more sophisticated methods of harnessing that energy.

    Tom Valone Responds (Score: 1)
    by sterlingda on Tuesday, September 27, 2005 @ 11:14:20 GMT
    (User Info | Send a Message) http://PESWiki.com
    Sent: Sunday, September 25, 2005 8:59 PM
    Subject: Re: Negative article on ZPE

    These people simply have not updated their ZPE research. The field is exploding as my Feasibility Study shows.

    Here is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, "Zero Point Energy: The Fuel of the Future"

    In 2003, Dr. Fabrizio Pinto received two patents on his Casimir force transducer. The first one (#6,650,527) is very exciting because it explicitly identifies the two major ways that Pinto alters the Casimir force, by changing physical properties of the transducer, with tricks we will explore in Chapter 4 and 8. The abstract states:
    • Method and apparatus for modulating the direction and magnitude of the Casimir force between two bodies. In accordance with the illustrative embodiment, a repulsive Casimir force is generated by placing two bodies in near-proximity to one another. For one of the bodies, dielectric properties predominate; for the other, magnetic properties predominate. The arrangement further includes a device that alters the dielectric or magnetic properties of the bodies. By altering the dielectric or magnetic properties, the repulsive Casimir force can be made to decrease, then vanish, then reappear as an attractive force. Modulating the Casimir force in such a manner can be used to control stiction in MEMS devices and to accelerate particles, among many other applications.
    The second patent (#6,665,167), granted a month later, has a very interesting abstract which simply patents the detailed method for energy extraction and does not define the ZPF but calls it a “force field.”
    • In some embodiments, the illustrative method defines an engine cycle comprising several state changes that allow for a net gain of energy from an underlying source force field. The potential for a net energy gain via the method results from the discovery that a Casimir force system can be rendered non-conservative. This is done by appropriately altering one or more of a variety of physical factors that affect the Casimir force, or by altering any of a variety of environmental factors that affect such physical factors. In various embodiments, the extracted energy is stored, used to power energy-consuming devices or used to actuate a micromechanical device.  
    This is also a first for the Casimir force being put to work and creating circumstances to ensure that ZPE is not conserved (translation: this means unlimited free energy for the taking).


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