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The Energy of Empty Space != Zero

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the mind-bending dept.

362

Raindeer writes "Lawrence Krauss (well-known physicist and author of The Science of Star Trek) invited a group of 21 cosmologists, experimentalists, theorists, and particle physicists and cosmologists. Stephen Hawking came; three Nobel laureates, Gerard 'tHooft, David Gross, Frank Wilczek etc. He wrote about the conclusions of this session in Edge; in short: 'there appears to be energy of empty space that isn't zero! This flies in the face of all conventional wisdom in theoretical particle physics. It is the most profound shift in thinking, perhaps the most profound puzzle, in the latter half of the 20th century. And it may be the first half of the 21st century, or maybe go all the way to the 22nd century. Because, unfortunately, I happen to think we won't be able to rely on experiment to resolve this problem.'"

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Energy Explained (0, Redundant)

dsginter (104154) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691106)

It will eventually be found that this energy was the egg in the proverbial chicken and the egg dilemma.

Re:Energy Explained (3, Funny)

Trouvist (958280) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691138)

Are you certain that it won't be found that this energy was the chicken in the proverbial egg and the chicken dilemma?

Re:Energy Explained (1)

Alexandra Erenhart (880036) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691257)

Evolution solved that dilemma long ago my friend :P

Re:Energy Explained (1)

xTantrum (919048) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691285)

as per TFA, they say that the "discussed" it and it appears to be so. Thats all well and good but it just sounds like a bunch of physcsists hanging round shooting the breeze. My question is Where is the math to come to this. i didn't see any mention of it, unless someone else saw it.

Re:Energy Explained (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691474)

ot:

can someone recommend a free alternative to windows media center?

thanks-

rob the knob

Empty Spaces (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691108)

Sorry, after reading this headline, I have the following going through my head:

What shall we use
to fill the empty spaces
where we used to talk?
How shall I fill
The final places?
How can I complete the wall?

Re:Empty Spaces (5, Funny)

tgd (2822) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691207)

Thats funny, after reading the article I thought:

Gee, there's good looking ladies in Physics.

But thats just because I read physics articles mostly for the pictures.

New news? (4, Interesting)

haluness (219661) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691110)

I thought that this was previously known - isn't the Higgs field (http://hepwww.ph.qmul.ac.uk/epp/higgs1.html [qmul.ac.uk] ) supposed to endow empty space with a non-zero energy? (Or maybe it was postulated but not observed)

Re:New news? (2, Informative)

nowaycomputer (920206) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691296)

Is this really news? I took an undergraduate quantum optics class last year that had a large part about the infinite zero point energy which exists in 'empty' space. Casimir force anyone?

Re:New news? (5, Informative)

Danny Rathjens (8471) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691305)

The Casimir Effect [wikipedia.org] has been observed/measured.

Re:New news? (4, Interesting)

frankie (91710) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691385)

Yes, Krauss is talking about vacuum fluctuations and such, well-known concepts. The article is mainly him describing how freaked out he is that there are these two enourmous counter-balancing forces that almost but not quite perfectly cancel each other out, so that out at 120 decimal places there's a positive value left over.

He then proceeds on to the standard "argument from conditional probability" where the universe has exactly these constants because if it didn't we wouldn't be here to see it. Which is a comfortable thing to believe but isn't predictive science.

I'm guessing this essay is a seed for his next book.

Re:New news? (1)

FractalZone (950570) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691542)

I'm guessing this essay is a seed for [Krause's] next book.

When can I pre-order a copy? Will it remain untitled? :-)

I have long been aware that the idea of energy (matter) springing out of nothingness is an established concept in modern physics. I would like to read more...

Most people (3, Funny)

Ramble (940291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691115)

Cool, now the space in most peoples head can be put to good use.

Re:Most people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691393)

Fess up - You took the blue pill didn't you?

Zero-point energy? (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691116)

It sounds like they are talking about zero-point energy, the energy in the quantum vacuum. This has been known about by theoretical physicists for some time, and has even made it into popular science fiction. There is some debate, I believe, as to whether it is possible to extract this energy in a usable form, but its existence is hardly new.

Re:Zero-point energy? (5, Informative)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691166)

Zero-point energy is predicted by both the leading quantum physics and relativity models. This is like 70 years old.

Re:Zero-point energy? (2, Informative)

tb()ne (625102) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691216)

It sounds like they are talking about zero-point energy, the energy in the quantum vacuum. This has been known about by theoretical physicists for some time, and has even made it into popular science fiction. There is some debate, I believe, as to whether it is possible to extract this energy in a usable form, but its existence is hardly new.

Debate? What debate? Syndrome clearly demonstrated the practical application of zero-point energy while thrashing Mr. Incredible.

120 orders of magnitude (3, Interesting)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691281)

The interesting part is not that it exists, but that if you apply the theory empty space has 120 orders of magnitude more energy than the visible universe. Still, you can take the same theory and apply it to a hydrogen atom and get a number that is validated by experiment to nine decimal points. So the big question is, how do you use the same theory (relativity and quantum mechanics) to make a great prediciton about hydrogen atoms and a terrible prediction about vaccuum energy?

Still, the point of the article isn't about vaccuum energy, but rather the anthropic principle. The concept is that there's a constant in our universe that almost precisely cancels out this vaccuum energy. This is purely by chance and we see it because if it didn't happen, we wouldn't be around to talk about it.

Re:120 orders of magnitude (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691323)

I am confident that there are many many other universes where it DOESN'T cancel out.
Unfortunately, there are no Slashdotters in those universes.

Re:Zero-point energy? (5, Informative)

internic (453511) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691475)

Here is a this very nice discussion of the zero-point energy [ucr.edu] by mathematical physicist John Baez. You're right, the idea is hardly new, but some of the experimental evidence about the cosmological constant is relatively new.

I think it's fair to say that almost no physicists believe you can extract useful work from the vacuum energy. Most of the people claiming you can are con men trying to swindle people into buying "free energy devices" that supposedly tap the zero-point energy (it's the modern day incarnation of perpetual motion machines). While you may be able to setup a situation where the vacuum does work (i.e. with the Casamir force), I think it is simply less than or equal to the energy it took to put the apparatus together. Essentially, it's equivalent to sitting in a room with uniform atmospheric pressure and trying to use that atmospheric pressure to do work. You can certainly use a vessle with low or high pressure to do work, but you're never going to get out more energy than it took to create that high (or low) pressure. While one can think about this in terms of thermodynamics, that's really litte more than making concrete the common-sense proposition that you can't get something for nothing. Thus far, nature has not given us any good reason to abandon that idea.

Sometimes people do talk about things like pair creation from the vacuum and the energy-time uncertainty relation, but they are speaking about virtual particles rather than actual particles. The bottom line here is that when you make a measurement, what you will find is actual particles and energy will be conserved, even according to quantum field theory.

I call it a...... (0)

blankoboy (719577) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691136)

...Hawking hole.

/2 guesses as to who said that.

Re:I call it a...... (0)

starrift (864840) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691237)

It was Hawking on an episode of the simpsons.

Re:I call it a...... (1)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691414)

Futurama, actually.

Re:I call it a...... (1)

starrift (864840) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691533)

You are correct...I was mixing up Matt Groening series, for shame.

Re:I call it a...... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691252)

I've always prefered Fry Hole myself.

Flamebait (-1, Offtopic)

spikexyz (403776) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691139)

At last the heat radiated from George Bush's head is explained.

This fact has been observed (4, Funny)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691152)

For politicians, they have much empty space, yet have energy to be able to move around and such.

How do we use it? (0)

Poromenos1 (830658) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691160)

Is there any way for us to use that energy? I guess we should find an efficient way to use the sun's energy before we turn to outer space, though.

Just because it has energy... (4, Insightful)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691280)

... doesn't mean it is usable. The pen sitting on your desk has energy, but I don't see you jumping to extract energy from it.

The exciting thing here is that empty space has **some** energy potential. Less energy potential than a lump of mass just sitting on a desk or a burning coal in a fire, but **some** energy potential.

What a babe (5, Funny)

ma11achy (150206) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691171)


I know, as a scientist I should be objective. But..

Lisa Randall is a babe!!

Ho hum, back to the numbers.

Re:What a babe (3, Funny)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691367)

Lisa Randall is a babe!!

I do not think that word means what you think it means... [harvard.edu]

Re:What a babe (2, Funny)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691404)

He did qualify his statement by saying he's a scientist. Heck, I can remember in grad school realizing I hadn't SEEN a woman in 3 weeks. At which point XX chromosomes == babe.

Re:What a babe (1)

kisrael (134664) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691683)

Oh, anyone can have a bad picture.
this is a little hotter [harvard.edu] ... especially if brains gets you hot.

Farkboy sez... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691442)

I'd hit it!

Re:What a babe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691448)

Agreed. She gives me hope. Word-class brilliant, over 40, and still looking fine. And to the sibling post that linked to that bad pic of her--whatever...look at the others online. She got her Ph.D in 87 which puts her in early 40s at best, probably more like mid to late 40s. That's a n exceptional combination of hotness and brains at any age.

let's see here... (5, Funny)

smaerd (954708) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691182)

"...21 cosmologists, experimentalists, theorists, and particle physicists and cosmologists"

Guys, it's early Monday morning here. When I see a fragment like that, my very-tired brain makes be go back and read it again until it makes sense. Then, because I'm not awake, I don't catch that the only thing wrong is that there are two "cosmologists" in there. Then I have to go back and read it again... then, because I'm not awake, I don't catch that there's two "cosmologists" in there and I have to go back and read it again...

You get the picture. I was going to make a point or say something a little more witty, but it's early Monday morning here.

Re:let's see here... (1)

tb()ne (625102) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691277)

Maybe one of them was a typo for cosmogonist [thefreedictionary.com] .

Editor! (2, Funny)

elyons (934748) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691186)

. . .invited a group of 21 cosmologists, experimentalists, theorists, and particle physicists and cosmologists.

Still, this doesn't explain why the editors always miss the obvious goofs when posting.

Re:Editor! (1)

lpangelrob (714473) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691256)

It looks right.

From [1] [google.com] : Definitions of cosmologist on the Web:

  • an astronomer who studies the evolution and space-time relations of the universe --wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

I think you were thinking of cosmetologists:

  • an expert in the use of cosmetics

Re:Editor! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691377)

Read the post again. Pay close attention to the two bolded words.

Re:Editor! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691589)

. . .invited a group of 21 cosmologists, experimentalists, theorists, and particle physicists and cosmologists.

Cosmologists are busy thinking very hard. They tend to forget minor things like invites.
That's why you do it twice.

Science Fluxion (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691188)

And I thought "Zero Point Energy" was just technobabble [wikipedia.org] .

Fact: what you know that you have proven to yourself
Belief: what you know that you could prove to yourself but have not
Faith: what you know that you can not prove to yourself

Is there a distinction between faith you can't prove to yourself because it's not proveable (metaphysics), and faith you're too dumb to prove?

Re:Science Fluxion (2, Insightful)

starseeker (141897) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691398)

"Is there a distinction between faith you can't prove to yourself because it's not proveable (metaphysics), and faith you're too dumb to prove?"

Yes. The latter has a hope of being successfully challenged, and the former does not. That distinction is what distinguishes a scientific question (even if not currently testable) from a religious one (a certain state's school system's habit of redefining words nonwithstanding).

Re:Science Fluxion (5, Funny)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691669)

What about an ape who can talk with humans (maybe sign language) about its personal environment. But who can't possibly understand the mutual gravitational attraction of matter, though they can shake an apple from a tree. Is gravity both "ape faith" and "human science"?

Re:Science Fluxion (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691458)

Belief: what you know that you could prove to yourself but have not

How can you possibly know that you could prove something to yourself if you haven't gone to the trouble of actually proving it to yourself? Unless you take it on faith of course. Your definitions are silly.

Re:Science Fluxion (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691630)

There are many proofs that something can be proven, without being able to actually prove it. Or fail to disprove it, which is the scientific method.

I know that 23234.4324 * 154.32323 is a number, even before I do the math. That's my belief in math at work. It can be proven - it has been proven to me that it can be proven, even before it it has been proven.

Your failure to understand something so simple and common, Anonymous obtuse Coward, makes my final question about faiths and incompetence even more interesting, especially because you cannot understand it.

Re:Science Fluxion (1)

nido (102070) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691504)

Is there a distinction between faith you can't prove to yourself because it's not proveable (metaphysics),

It's not that metaphysics are unproveable, just that there's not currently an accepted theoretical framework that allows for the phenomena observed.

For example, MythBusters tested Paul H. Smith & his claim to be able to teach "remote viewing". Materialist scientists scoff at the notion that a human could get information about a distant location with hokey 'psychic' skills, because there's no allowance in their model of the universe of a mechanism that allows for the transference of said information. But, as the Mythbusters found in the show, there's something to the practice.

It was pointed out to me that even the scientists now say that matter-as-we-know-it only makes up 4-7% of the universe. The rest is classified as "dark matter" and "dark energy", and said dark-stuff "interpenetrates" everything else. 'Dark energy' could very well be the vector that explains the how & why of so-called psychic phenomena.

I'm currently working on Lynne McTaggart's The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe [amazon.com] , which covers more on the energy of empty space. She's a science reporter, and the first 100 pages are on the historical progression of interest in the subject.

Re:Science Fluxion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691556)

The Mythbusters found out there was "something to the practice" of remote viewing? What, exactly?

Is it usable enegry? (1)

PlusFiveTroll (754249) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691193)

Tom Bearden [cheniere.org] thinks it is.

Bearden (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691439)

Energy is valuable. If Bearden really could obtain it from the vacuum, he wouldn't need to sell books to make a living. It's not really that hard to be a small profitable power plant - look at the farmers burning methane and selling electricity. Anyone claiming "free energy" needs to put out or shut up. A friend of mine loaned me a book by Bearden - what a crock. Nothing there but technobable and conspriacy theories. He'd rather you buy his books than do anything worthwhile. He'd probably prefer to produce useful energy, but of course he can't.

Well, duh. (4, Funny)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691194)

Where did they think all that suction comes from in a vacuum?

Pfft! Stupid scientists.

Thank You, Slashdot (5, Funny)

McPolu (932921) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691208)

...in the face of all conventional wisdom in theoretical particle physics...

In which other web page do you think you will ever find a phrase like that? I really love Slashdot today. Talking about "conventional wisdom" in "theoretical particle physics".

Re:Thank You, Slashdot (1)

dimator (71399) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691628)

Perhaps the more poorly written /. article synopsis evar... and that's saying a lot.

Wrong Book Title (3, Informative)

Skidge (316075) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691211)

Dr. Krauss's book is actually called The Physics of Star Trek [amazon.com] and has a forward written by Stephen Hawking.

sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691538)

foreword

oops.. (5, Insightful)

doowy (241688) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691228)

I got half way through the article and stopped. He isn't saying anything really at all.

I don't think this is a discovery of any sort.. I think it is just a guy bragging that he had a nice audience at some conference for which he gave a presentation regarding the non-zero energy of empty space.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this has been known for some time and is even explained our current models.

His presentation seemed to be very anecdotal, I don't think he's claiming to have discovered anything - in fact, I don't think he is claiming to even understand what he is talking about, he's just providing some anecdotal perspective on it.

P.S. I don't claim to understand it myself.. :)

Re:oops.. (2, Funny)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691547)

I got half way through the article and stopped. He isn't saying anything really at all.

      Count yourself lucky. He said it all over again in the second half. That makes this "news", like, 140 years old, instead of just 70.

Re:oops.. (1)

cathector (972646) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691684)

i agree. i felt like i'd sat down at a bar next to the wrong guy and now had to listen to him drunkenly explaining this amazing science factoid. which is frustrating because it's intersting stuff and he seems to suggest that something new came out of this amazing science party, but he doesn't really back it up.

Come One, Come All! (5, Funny)

Petersko (564140) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691229)

I have built a machine in my back yard that harnesses this amazing, free source of energy. The government, however, wants to keep it under wraps, and the oil companies have a contract out on my head.

I can't show you how it works - that's a secret I want to keep until things cool off enough for me to patent it. But rest assured, it works. You can drop by and see the spinning plates attached to it. They've been spinning for eight months with no added power.

Yes, I did build it entirely on my own, using the vast knowledge I gleaned by sitting in on engineering classes two or three times a month.

Re:Come One, Come All! (1)

Haertchen (810148) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691469)

LOL! That's great.

Of course, the really funny people are the ones who believe it when they say it.

The Casimir effect (5, Interesting)

MC68000 (825546) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691233)

The perfect demonstration of zero point energy is the Casimir effect, which has actually been observed in a laboratory.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casimir_effect [wikipedia.org]

Re:The Casimir effect (3, Interesting)

kalirion (728907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691455)

What about background radiation? That's everywhere, isn't it? Or are we considering "empty space" as a theoretical place where there isn't even any radiation at all? And if the Casimir effect counts, wouldn't gravity count as well? Well, I guess there could conceivably be points in space where gravity is 100% cancelled out....

Re:The Casimir effect (1)

spun (1352) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691459)

Totally off topic, but I have wondered whether the Casimir effect could be used in a type of nanotech battery. Take a large number of very thin plates connected to nano scale gears and motors. The battery is charged by running the motors to seperate the plates. The casimir effect pushes the plates together, turning the motors as generators, providing electric current. Anyone know if this would (in theory, given the right materials and advances in materials science, but not basic physics) work?

It's shaken my faith in science... (1)

OglinTatas (710589) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691239)

I didn't RTFA of course but the quote "...I happen to think we won't be able to rely on experiment to resolve this problem." while only one man's opinion, sounds a lot like _faith_

Re:It's shaken my faith in science... (1)

egomaniac (105476) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691467)

...the quote "...I happen to think we won't be able to rely on experiment to resolve this problem." while only one man's opinion, sounds a lot like _faith_

Nonsense. If it were faith, he would have complete confidence that his belief was correct even in the face of obvious contraevidence, and no amount of persuasion could convince him otherwise.

I've argued with people that have faith in ridiculous pseudosciences like psychic predictions. I can explain the effects in terms of cold reading, confirmation bias and so forth until I'm blue in the face, and never even get an "Well, I guess it's possible she was faking it...". True faith in something is literally delusional -- it absolutely doesn't matter how little evidence there is for it, and how much evidence there is against it, the person is going to believe it anyway.

That's a hell of a lot different than "I happen to think...".

(It's worth pointing out, of course, that even a ridiculous pseudoscience like psychic prediction has a hell of a lot more experimental and historical evidence going for it than any religion does...)

Big Deal! (0)

KoolDude (614134) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691240)


Wake me up when you can boot Linux using that energ... Oh, wait.

energy in empty space... (1)

stewie's deuce (953163) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691254)

well.. hawkings radition is based on the idea that space is filled with virtual particles that materialize and reconverge...

Vacuum energy (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691268)

As others have noted, the idea of the energy of empty space being nonzero isn't an new idea. The quantum zero-point vacuum energy is nonzero. However, our predictions of its value are ridiculously large, which led some to speculate that either we should redefine the zero point of energy to equal the zero-point energy so that the energy of space exactly equals zero. It's also possible that our ways of doing the accounting are naive (e.g., ignoring quantum gravity), or that some kind of cancellation is going on (e.g. bosons cancelling out fermions in supersymmetry).

This is related to what may be the biggest open question in cosmology, the cosmological constant problem. The energy of space is intimately related to the "cosmological constant". We now know from the accelerating expansion of the universe that there appears to be a nonzero cosmological constant, implying a nonzero vacuum energy. Its experimentally measured value is many orders of magnitude smaller than a naive calculation of zero-point energy based on the Planck scale, however. Another possibility is that the cosmological constant is actually zero, and the accelerating expansion is actually due to the energy/pressure content of some kind of dynamical "dark energy" field (as opposed to the static cosmological-constant form of dark energy).

More on vacuum energy [ucr.edu] and the cosmological constant [ucr.edu] , plus a tutorial [ucla.edu] .

P.S. Contrary to some science fiction applications (cough-StargateAtlantis-cough) and crank physics (cough-Puthoff-cough), you can't extract free energy as work from the zero-point energy. The zero-point energy is by definition the lowest energy state that a system can have; to extract usable energy, you'd have to decrease the energy of the rest of the system below that minimum value, which is by definition impossible.

Re:Vacuum energy (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691424)

To be fair to Stargate, they aren't extracting zero point energy from this universe, but from a pocket universe contained within the ZPM.

Re:Vacuum energy (1)

nido (102070) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691557)

... you can't extract free energy as work from the zero-point energy. The zero-point energy is by definition the lowest energy state that a system can have; to extract usable energy, you'd have to decrease the energy of the rest of the system below that minimum value, which is by definition impossible.

ah, but perhaps the definitions need to be changed.

I've personally met someone you would call a "crank physicist" (a doctoral candidate at a conventional university) who is working in the zero-point energy field, and he's quite exicited about the implications of his work.

Someday we'll look back and chuckle at how everyone use to believe in a fundamentally mechanical universe, even after cosmologists had made their observations that matter-as-we-know-it only makes up 4-7% of the universe...

Confused... (1)

loony (37622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691282)

Am I the only one that's confused about the statement? If there is energy in empty space - then that means only one thing - the space by definition isn't empty...

We thought that there was nothing in water - then they found minerals and all other kinds of stuff... we thought there was nothing smaller than an atom - we were proven wrong... So why is everyone so surprised that we found yet another thing that we didn't know existed? Why does it have to conflict with physics? If the particles are so small we just didn't see them before - then they don't have to influence things strongly enough to make a difference to our current physics. Just like when they discovered that the atom wasn't the smallest piece of matter ... It opened up a new world - but it didn't relly change the physics that dealt with the higher levels...

Peter.

Re:Confused... (1)

rknop (240417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691345)

Am I the only one that's confused about the statement? If there is energy in empty space - then that means only one thing - the space by definition isn't empty...

It's not the same as water having other stuff in it that we didn't realize before.

This is really that if you take everything away that you can take away, you still have some energy density left, which you can't get rid of. It's a quantum effect that is ultimately the result of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

If there really is a non-zero vacuum energy density, it is also probably the reason that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating.

Re:Confused... (1)

Mant (578427) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691402)

If the particles are so small we just didn't see them before

If you read the article you might realise they aren't talking about that at all, the particles in question are positrons and electrons.

They are talking about actually empty space having sufficient energy that sometimes it turns into matter, an electron and a positron, that usually then wipe each other out and become energy, but can have an effect on things.

However the energy doesn't fit with other observations and theories in physics. So our understanding about something here must be wrong.

Empty Space == Empty Party (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691288)

Wow! What a dead party.

Not a beer can in sight and crappy finger food.

Does empty space even exist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691304)

Matter and energy are the same thing. Space is a byproduct of that.
Space is a way of measuring the configuration of matter/energy.

There fore I ask the question: Can so-called empty space even exist?

How would we know?

Just like string theory being a mathematical contrivance so is 'empty space'

All space that we know has electromagnetic fields running through it continuously.

I once asked a theoretical physicists if the energy assumed to be in 'dark matter' was actually locked into all the fields that are running through everything, ie as light travelling through space. She said that the energy in 'free-space' is accounted for and the mystery of dark-matter continues. I wasn't sure and she didn't give any references (this was at the Geophysics Lab in Massachusetts some time in the 1990's)

It must be wonderful to spend billions on investigating quantum physics, go sit on a beach somewhere, get fat and rich on the money that we all spend because physicists have this sincere seeming ernast confusion.

Seriously, though, it took meteorologists to discover Chaos theory.
I am not sure but I think that modern high-energy physics is a wasteland of closed minds.

So sad so much is wasted in this rat whole trying to define the undefinable.192.6.1.155/

They seek to measure the ruler with itself.

That never works.

Matter is energy and distance and time are merely byproducts of this.

Get it right: Empty space doesn't exist because space is a tool (a conceptual tool) that we use to explain matter/energy.

It is the same thing that happened with math where we write equations as functions of time when it is much easier to understand when we write them as functions of frequency.

How can people so highly placed and so well-paided and compenstated be so clueless?

Re:Does empty space even exist? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691605)

Matter and energy are the same thing. Space is a byproduct of that.

No they aren't, for the same reason squares and quadrilaterals aren't the same thing. Matter is a type of energy. Not all energy is matter.

That is all.

Zero Point... (1)

webrunner (108849) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691307)

Nice, now we can have a near infinate Energy Source [wikipedia.org] and a convenient way to Move Crates around [wikipedia.org] .

at last! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691328)

Somebody finally thought to ask both Cosmologists AND Cosmologists! This is where breakthroughs come from.

I wish I could... (2, Funny)

SIInudeity (822415) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691334)

Wish I could throw a party, and Stephen Hawking rocks up. "Invitation, Hawkings will be there, and free beer"

Linking two kinds of energies (1)

Ken_g6 (775014) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691341)

It took me awhile going through the article, but the author seems to be trying to prove that Vacuum Energy [wikipedia.org] is the source of Dark Energy [wikipedia.org] .

Apple, meet Orange (1)

sweetser (148397) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691343)

The average energy of a vacuum can be zero. The deviation of the average amount of energy cannot be zero. The average is not the deviation from the average. State that clearly, and there is no issue. Blur the line, make BS.

Doug
TheStandUpPhysicist.com

ps. There is no need for the Higgs field. When mass gets introduced correctly into a unified field theory, it will break symmetry not spontaneously (ie hyper-convenient, uber-sophisticated BS), but break symmetry in a way directly wired into gravity, which is what mass is all about. One has to connect the graviton to the scalar field so that the equivalence principle works on the quantum level.

Doctor Who (1)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691350)

Sounds like the void ship from the end of the last season of Doctor Who.

Huh (0)

fermion (181285) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691371)

Ok, I tried to understand what this guy is saying, and came away confused. On one hand, he keeps saying we know this and we know that. In fact, we know squat. We know that we don't regualarly float off the earth for no apparent reason, and we think we have an idea why. We know that when we look up we see stars, and we think we have an idea why. We know that if we are in a vacuum there is very little air, but even if there are no atoms, there are other stuff.

One point he is correct. We are pretty sure there are virtual particles that pop in and out of existance, and by the nature of their existance they do may not add to the energy of the vacuum. These particles are created and destroyed around us all the time. They are so short lived that the universe "does not notice", in the heisenberg sense. OTOH, we also know that QM states minimum energy levels, and this might indicate a minimum energy of the universe. After all, waves are not localized, and thier energy presumable spreads throughout the cosmos. I believe most of this stuff has been at least suspected for most of my lifetime. How to interpret this stuff is the trick, because enchanted perfect particles and magical waves are not that confortable to physicists.

I was most disappointed becuase there are interesting questions. The energy of the vacuum is likely nonzero, and it seem pretty clear that if the energies are added you come up with a huge number, reminiscent of the Ultraviolet catastrophe. Likewise we have black holes, which form another disturbing infiintiy. And then we have the reemergence of the Eistein gravity hack. This does not even get into the wierd copenhagen interpretation of QM, most recently discussed in the FPS, a publication of the APS.

From what I can tell, most of this involves a bunch of old line physicist complaining about string theory, and there is nothing wrong with that as this is what old line physicists are supposed to do. But we always have had, and will continue to have, issues in the interpretation of our physical models. Instead of going around saying what we know, it seems more useful to look at where what we think we know does not mesh with the observables, and how that effects our assumption. Are constants constant? Do observations collaps waves in particles, or are the wave and particle one in the same? Is the universe one of three structures? These are why being a scientist is going to cool for the kids entering college today.

With all the brain power there, this was a surpris (1)

bjdevil66 (583941) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691413)

Someone at the meeting said, well, you know, don't we understand gravity? Things fall.

Who invited THAT guy?

Space-energy relationship (1)

Malluck (413074) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691430)

So empty space actually holds some energy content.

In that sence I wonder if you could relate space to energy in much the same way Einstein relates matter and energy. If that were the case, utilizing this energy would destroy space. Good thing we seem to have an abundance of empty space in our universe.

I'd just be worried about too many people using it here at home. They say the world is always getting smaller. ZPE would mean it really was.

Oh come on! (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691441)

Everyone knows that the dark energy comes from the turtles [wikipedia.org] that are smaller than the Plank distance.

Crackpot Theory (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691481)

As an armchair physicist, the concept of energy in the nothingness of space is interesting to me. My crackpot guess is that all matter is just a complex ripple of whatever the universe is made of. Where you see a vaccuum, it's really just "flat" matter. The planets (as an easy example) are sort of twists and molds in the material of the universe. It's a bit hard to picture in three dimensions, but take a block of jello (or for the tried and true geeks, a 10x10 gelatinous cube) as the universe, and the imperfections inside (more dense areas, less dense areas, churned areas, etc) represent the planets and stars.

It sort of makes sense in terms of gravity as well - you can "stretch" this material to some extent (sort of like winding up taffy to make a piece of candy) and that essentially makes the trip from point A to B take a shorter amount of time (because the effective time between A and B is the same, but since they are now farther apart, you get there "faster", ie, gravitational pull).

Not saying it makes sense, but it's fun to think about. :-)

Dark matter found at last? (2, Insightful)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691495)

Well, it seems to me that if space itself has a nonzero energy, you may be able to stop looking for that extra matter/energy that is missing from the big bang. Most of the universe is...well, space. That might account for that missing 90%, right?

Your Energy Bill . . . (5, Funny)

rogerborn (236155) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691496)

FINAL NOTICE

THIS IS YOUR FINAL BILL FROM INTERGALATIC EDISON

PLEASE PAY

$100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.29

FOR THE VACUUM PACKAGED ENERGY WE PROVIDED FOR YOU OVER THE PAST 100,000 YEARS

FAILURE TO PAY THIS BILL MAY RESULT IN YOUR SUN BEING TURNED OFF FOR NON PAYMENT

REGARDS,
INTERGALACTIC EDISON
A BIG BANG COMPANY

ZPM (1)

ms1234 (211056) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691497)

So where is my Zero Point Module?

Someone get me a lawsuit story...quick! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691500)

At least that whole Google-jumbo-jet thing from yesterday was something I could understand!

Someone break this down for me and/or tell me where I'm wrong. You know, for all of us laymen-astrocosmoscientists.

Are they saying that there's energy where we don't expect there to be energy, and that because it's so difficult to prove, we won't be able to prove that there's energy where we don't expect energy to be?

I mean, I haven't even seen an "I, for one, welcome..." or a "Think of the children!" post in this thing yet. What is this...real science on Slashdot?

Oi. Head...spinning...empty space in brain swelling with energy!

The Energy of Empty Space != Zero (1)

bozr (987950) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691508)

42?

Morons... (5, Funny)

dildo (250211) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691558)

Scene: A scientist (Albert) and a zero-point-energy fan (Crackpot) are at the bottom of a very deep well.

Albert: Well, it may be cold and wet here, but at least we can't get any lower! I guess that is some sort of consolation.
Crackpot: What are you talking about? We're still filled with potential energy! If we could harvest the potential energy we could get from going a foot lower, we could use it to boost our way out of here!
Albert: Um... no.
Crackpot: What do you mean? Do you work for the oil companies or something?!
Albert: The amount of potential energy you have depends on where you define your lowest point. Typically we set the "zero" point to be the point where you can't fall any further. Since you can't obtain any energy by any means at that point, that means there is no potential energy left.
Crackpot: But what if we dig down another foot?
Albert: Do you have any idea how much energy that would require to do that?
Crackpot: Fine, we'll dig down 20 feet to extract more energy, and that will pay for the energy expense of digging.

Albert looks confused. He thinks he might be missing a subtle joke. He decides that he isn't deficient in humor -- his companion is deficient in brainpower. Albert unfurrows his brow and tries to talk some sense into his friend.

Albert: Ok. Let's consider two situations. We've got our situation right now -- we're at the bottom of a well with no way out -- and another situation. In the other situation an evil man is dangling two jet-packs on a fishing line right above our heads. The man will always pull the jet packs out of our reach whenever we try to grab them. The man will never get tired and he will never let us have the jet packs no matter what we do. No matter how long or hard we try, we won't get the jet packs. Question: is it easier to get out of the well in the first situation, or in the second situation?
Crackpot: What does this have to do with getting access to our latent potential energy?
Albert: (sighs)
Crackpot: I have a shovel and some rubber bands. You try to talk to the guy with the jet packs while I dig.

Albert drowns himself. Fin.

Polarity (2, Interesting)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691593)

It's funny that I happened to think about this subject last week for no apparent reason (thoughts like this just pop into my mind, damn that astronomy minor,) and I thought wouldn't it make sense if gravity had polarity?

A gravitational well possesses some energy, which at minimum depends on its mass, the gravitational pull towards the center of that mass can be seen as one pole of a gravitational 'magnet', if that were the case, where would be the opposite pole of that mass? It could be that the entire space/time in the universe has to stretch to accomodate the difference in gravitational potential. So it stretches enough to counterbalance the energy of the gravitational well. There must be some sort of communication between the opposite poles, either by 'gravitational waves' or some gravitational particles (gravitons?) or maybe both. If it were waves, it would have looked as if ripples on the surface of a pond were moving out in 2 dimensional space from the center of the gravity well, and the further these ripples move away from the center of the well, the more they subside.

But these ripples have to be absorbed by something, this something is the normal space, and the more mass there is in the universe, the more of this 'normal empty' space there must be to balance out that mass.

Based upon all of these assumptions, which I admit are nothing more than speculations at this point, I could even introduce some ideas on the creation of the universe:

Imagine a totally empty space. Suddenly there was an influx of mass at one point in this space. This influx created a gravitational imbalance in the space and forced the space to balance out this potential by 'creating' more empty space. If any of the above makes sense, I would say that appearence of 'empty space' is actual property of non-empty space, but it takes much more of this 'empty space' to balance any small amount of non-empty space. So while the amount of non-empty space was not very large, the amount of 'empty space' had to be astronomically greater.

So the more of the non-empty space appears in the universe, the more empty space is provided as a balancer.

-
This is all my own conjectures and should not be taken too seriously. yet :)

Please get his name correctly - it is 't Hooft (1)

tetrode (32267) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691601)

With a space, that is. His name is 't Hooft, not 'tHooft. The guy even has a webpage about it, so this means people are getting his name wrong all of the time...

  - webpage how to spell his name: http://www.phys.uu.nl/~thooft/ap.html [phys.uu.nl]

Mark

Two questions (1)

dR.fuZZo (187666) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691606)

Where or what was it that Lawrence Krauss invited all of these people to, and were there any cosmologists there?

This is old news, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691612)

people have been talking about aether for centuries.

Seriously though, philosophically speaking vacuum != nothing, the fact that we can measure and quantify it implicitly gives it substance.

Re:This is old news, (3, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691666)

That's true, but now we call the "luminiferous aether" the "Higgs boson".

engery in empty space? (-1, Troll)

stewie's deuce (953163) | more than 8 years ago | (#15691653)

yes yes.. but how many mexicans will it take to harness this engery so that my A/C unit can run all day?

They used Pentium FDIV to compute it (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15691654)

This must be old as they apparently relied on the Pentium FDIV to compute a non-zero result. Had they used the newer AMD processors, they would have had a much higher resolution of a non-zero result.
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