To Infinity and Beyond: Transcending our Limitations (cont.)
By Nassim Haramein
Energy Density of the Vacuum
It seemed that in the quantum world,
a difficulty had been encountered
when physicists tried to calculate
the energy density of an oscillator
such as an atom. It turned out
that some of the vibrations still
existed, even when the system
was brought to absolute zero,
where you would think that all the
energy would be gone. In fact, the
equations showed that there was
an infinite amount of possible
energy fluctuation even within the
vacuum.
To understand this better,
physicists applied a principle of "renormalisation",
using a fundamental constant to cut off the number and
get a finite idea of how dense the vacuum energy must
be, with all its vibrations. The cutoff value used was
the Planck's distance or length, named after the great
physicist Max Planck, who is considered to be the
founder of quantum theory. This value is thought to be
the smallest vibration possible, being in the order of
10^{–33} centimetres and having a mass–energy in the order
of 10^{–5} grams.
The calculations
that were done
entailed working
out how many
teeny Planck's
volume vibrations
could coexist in a
cubic centimetre
of space...
The result was
enormous!
The calculations that were done entailed working out
how many teeny Planck's volume vibrations could
coexist in a cubic centimetre of space. The answer,
since each Planck's volume had a specific mass, was a
mass–energy density that existed in a centimetre cubed
of space. The result was enormous! The vacuum energy
density, or what can be called a Planck's density, was in
the order of 10^{93} grams per cubic centimetre of space
and was quickly dubbed "the worst prediction physics
has ever made" or "the vacuum catastrophe".
To give you an idea of how dense this value is, if you
were to take all of the matter we observed in our
Universe today with billions of galaxies containing
billions of stars, most of which are much larger than our
Sun, and we were to stuff them all into a centimetre cube
of space, the density of that cube would only be 10 ^{55}
grams. This is still some 38 orders of magnitude less
dense than the density of the vacuum. Many scientists
thought that this figure was ridiculous, and in general it
fell into obscurity. Even today, some
trained physicists are not necessarily
aware of this value. Throughout the
years I've received prompt criticism
from certain physicists who either
were unaware of its existence or
simply discarded it, as if the largest
energy quantity ever predicted could
be completely ignored.
However, the vacuum fluctuations of
energy
are
crucial
to
our
understanding of particle physics at
this point, as they are the source of
virtual particle creation at the atomic
level, which is essential to our
current understanding of physics.
More importantly, in 1948 the
Dutch physicist Hendrik Casimir
calculated and elaborated a
configuration
that
would
ultimately allow an experimental
validation of this vacuum energy.
Casimir reasoned that if two
plates were placed close enough
to each other so that the longer
wavelengths of the vacuum
oscillations would be eliminated
from between the plates and yet
would still be present on the outside of the plates, then
a minute gradient could be generated where there
would be more pressure on the outside and less on the
inside, resulting in the plates being pushed together.
However, when the distance by which the plates had to
be separated to do the job was calculated, it was found
that the plates had to be mere microns apart. This was
an impossible task in 1948, and it wasn't until the early
1990s that this experimental test could be done
successfully. The result agreed very well with the
calculations done by Casimir, showing that this energy
of the structure of space itself is truly present.
So at least the energy was there in the vacuum at the
quantum resolution. Could it be the energy that
connects all things, the energy from which everything
emerges and to which everything returns? Well, if so, it
would have to be present at all scales.
