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British Scientists Reverse Casimir Effect

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the where's-my-hover-car dept.

Science 347

An anonymous reader writes "The Telegraph reports that Scientists at the University of St. Andrews have developed a technique to cause the Casimir effect to repel instead of attract. This discovery could lead to near frictionless machines or in theory even levitation."

cancel ×

347 comments

I, for one (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20128891)

welcome our new levitating overlords!

Re:I, for one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20129061)

My frictionless Slip-n-Slide overlords will kick the asses of your levitating overlords.

but seriously.. will this allow someone to build a slip-n-slide to get between cities?

Re:I, for one (1)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129361)

Finally, I can retrofit the Prius and get it to fly. And screw you guys that want to retrofit your Hummers.

I say we enact a law that will only allow environmentally friendly vehicles to fly. Do it now before Hummers are grandfathered.

Re:I, for one (3, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129433)

I've already patented using this technology on skateboard decks, and no, Back to the Future doesn't count as prior art! I didn't get the idea from there at all!

Re:I, for one (1)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129441)

I don't know, I think that Deloreans would definitely need an exemption from that law.

wait... (3, Insightful)

flanker (12275) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128893)

Isn't it "repel" rather than "repeal"?

Re:wait... (2, Funny)

Himring (646324) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128939)

You are suggesting that they repel repeal in order to repeal the misunderstanding of repel.

Re:wait... (5, Funny)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129401)

No, the OP was right. They're repealing attraction. Don't know why they took so long, Slashdotters repealed attraction years ago.

Re:wait... (1)

dsginter (104154) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128949)

Isn't it "repel" rather than "repeal"?

No - the technique is nothing more than concentrated Republican extract.

Re:wait... (3, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129169)

Wouldn't that be repugnant, then?

Re:wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20129347)

Oooh. A bust on Republicans. Someone hurry up and mod this insightful.

Re:wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20129023)

TFA says

Now, using a special lens of a kind that has already been built, Prof Ulf Leonhardt and Dr Thomas Philbin report in the New Journal of Physics they can engineer the Casimir force to repel, rather than attact.
Isn't it "attract" rather than "attact"?

Oh no! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20128895)

Gasp, that means we will have to repel one of the laws of seance.

uplifting (3, Funny)

bobby1234 (860820) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128899)

How says science cannot be uplifting.... literally.

Re:uplifting (1)

bobby1234 (860820) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128923)

ok.... who says it cannot be uplifting .... note to self....next time use the preview button.....

Re:uplifting (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128943)

so THAT is how David Blaine does it!

Re:uplifting (5, Funny)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128977)

Depends how you look at it - pessimists will see the lower atom being depressed ;)

Re:uplifting (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20129243)

Well, I've got a chimpanzee here who says uplifiting is total bunk.

Repeal instead of attract. (4, Funny)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128905)

This could be put to immediate use in the USA, where much bad legislation needs to be repealed and they need to attract fewer blockheads to a career in politics.

Repeal? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20128907)

It can revoke laws?

casmir (5, Funny)

edittard (805475) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128915)

I'm not a big fan of knitwear at the best of times.

Re:casmir (4, Funny)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129337)

So you're already repelled. When they reverse the effect, maybe you'll be attracted. It will be sweaters every day for you.

Hmm (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20128917)

I have a feeling that this breakthrough will eventually lead to the development of giant flying mecha.
You heard it hear first, on slashdot.

miniature giant space hamsters (2, Funny)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129379)

I have a feeling that this breakthrough will eventually lead to the development of giant flying mecha.


Given that the Casimir effect actually produces enough force (well, pressure) at tens of nanometres distances between the two plates, that'll be some really tiny giant mecha ;)

Finally... (2, Funny)

rootus-rootus (151960) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128921)

Soon we can do away with stupid things like elevators..

Re:Finally... (3, Funny)

fthomas (1138617) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129103)

It's a "lift" you insensitive clod...

repeal vs. repel (4, Informative)

Laebshade (643478) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128925)

It's "repel" as in "the body odor of submitter repels women worldwide", as opposed (heh) to repeal, which means, "to remove or reverse a law".

Re:repeal vs. repel (1, Offtopic)

dmbasso (1052166) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129081)

Too bad I don't have modding points... you deserve an Informative rating. I'm not a native English speaker, so I found your explanation useful. People should read the Slashdot Modding FAQ before modding down posts like yours...

Re:repeal vs. repel (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20129175)

It's always nice to meet a humble American.

Uh, repel, not repeal... (-1, Redundant)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128927)

The opposite of "attract" is "repel": "repeal" has a totally different meaning.

Could an editor correct that rather relevant spelling error in the story summary, please?

Disintegrators (0, Redundant)

b0z0n3 (1086487) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128929)

What happens if all the molecules in your body suddenly repels eachother?

Re:Disintegrators (0, Offtopic)

SirJorgelOfBorgel (897488) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128951)

You would probably explode ;)

Re:Disintegrators (1)

AxminsterLeuven (963108) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128993)

The effect would be similar to what my girlfriend calls 'bad hair day', especially if it happens during the weekend.

Re:Disintegrators (2, Funny)

asliarun (636603) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129039)

What happens if all the molecules in your body suddenly repels eachother?
You will be rudely repealed.

Re:Disintegrators (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20129161)

Total protonic reversal.

Don't cross the streams.

Re:Disintegrators (2, Funny)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129223)

Or even worse: what if all your *electrons* repelled each other?????

ummmm? (1)

loafula (1080631) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128935)

i RTFA, but didn't see any explanation or examples. im baffled how this works.. any insight?

Re:ummmm? (5, Informative)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128961)

The BBC are slightly more useful at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_ east/6932283.stm [bbc.co.uk] - they say it's a "friction reducing lens". Still doesn't give us a lot to go on, but it's a start!

Re:ummmm? (5, Informative)

catman (1412) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129127)

Thanks for the link - the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] explains the effect and says that for materials with certain electromagnetic properties and configurations, the Casimir effect might result in a repulsive force instead of an attractive. Looks like somebody demonstrated that. Still, there's a long way from this to a macroscopic levitation system...

Re:ummmm? (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128991)

From what I understand, they have a decent theory and ideas on how it could be done, but have not actually tried it yet.

Re:ummmm? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20129063)

the Frictionless lens is a material with negative refractive index...
which seems to change the energy distribution of the vacuum ...err ...kinda
i didn't post the page of the author for obvious reasons, suffice it to say the profs do have a page with a nice laymen explanation(well laymen 'cause theres no math)...google is your friend

Re:ummmm? (2, Funny)

ROMRIX (912502) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129069)

i RTFA, but didn't see any explanation or examples. im baffled how this works.. any insight?
It works on the same principle as zits on your prom date.

Re:ummmm? (5, Informative)

DJ Paradox (219601) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129075)

Try checking out the University website - it had much more information about the science of the discovery:

http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~ulf/levitation.html [st-andrews.ac.uk]

Pity they have a photo of Syndrome and his Zero-Point Energy device as an example at the top. Doesn't help anyone to take them seriously surely.

Re:ummmm? (5, Funny)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129205)

im baffled how this works.. any insight?

I assume it involves a cat with a piece of buttered toast strapped to its back...

Re:ummmm? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20129277)

The way it works is, the new lens makes you look like a Scientologist. Thereby ensuring that anybody with any common sense is repelled.

spelling? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20128937)

This article is repealsive.

They'd better be careful (2, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128957)

Or they'll vaporize the universe with this contraption. I suppose somebody's out there looking to make a weapon out of the thing.

Re:They'd better be careful (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129101)

Or they'll vaporize the universe with this contraption. I suppose somebody's out there looking to make a weapon out of the thing.


Probably. Many major scientific breakthroughs have come from researchers working on weapons technology. And vice-versa -- many new weapons technologies have come from researchers working on scientific breakthroughs.

Imagine causing all of the atoms in a tank to repel each other. Messy.

Re:They'd better be careful (1, Interesting)

Jayemji (1054886) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129241)

Not thinking big enough. Try the ground level of a skycraper. Now THAT'S messy.

Re:They'd better be careful (0, Offtopic)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129263)

Osama? Is that you?

Re:They'd better be careful (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129149)

Or they'll vaporize the universe with this contraption. I suppose somebody's out there looking to make a weapon out of the thing. /quote>

Step 1: Weaponize Casimir reverser
Step 2: Figure out how much money to demand from the world governments so you don't use the weapon
Step 3: Profit!

Re:They'd better be careful (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20129355)

I have a masters in physics, and although im not an expert in these things, i believe i have a better working knowledge than parent.

In the quantum description of the electromagnetic field, there is no such thing as uniformly zero field - even in completely empty space, there are oscilations in the field spread over all modes (ie. wavelengths). It can be compared to an ocean or pond in stormy weather where there will allways be *some* waves.
Now, if we have a geometry consisting of two flat opposing plates, only certain wavelengths corresponding to the distance between the plates will be allowed. Thus by increasing or decreasing the distance between the plates, we can deside which zero-point wavelengths will be allowed, and it is such that the situation where the plates are very close are energetically favorable, hence we will see the two plates attract each other and this is known as the casimir force which has been measured many times in the experiment. Its important to realize that its not charges on the plates which are doing the work - everything is kept charge neutral. Its vacuum doing work :-) .

(by manipulating the geometry of the plates, inserting lences, etc. its then theoretically possible to make the plates repel instead, which is what the article is about)

Anyway. My point is. This is not like nuclear chain reactions. The experimental conditions under which you see these effects are extreme (as in: the truck on the street or the cellphone in the assistants pocket will ruin it). Its a neat discovery, but the doom and gloom is completely uncalled for.

I'll be impressed... (1)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128967)

when they can figure out how to build those artificial gravity doohickeys used on the USS Enterprise and other spaceships.

Re:I'll be impressed... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20129409)

and I'll be impressed when you get on your knees and suck my dick like a good little bitch.

levitating overlords... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20128975)

will somebody welcome our levitating overlords ?

Using the force? (5, Funny)

therufus (677843) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128979)

Micro or nano machines could run smoother and with less or no friction at all if one can manipulate the force.
Obi-Wan was right after all! I can become a Jedi!

So was it only me that heard Sir Alec Guinness read that line out?

Not a high point in science journalism (4, Informative)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128981)

The discovery is not to be belittled, but both the article and the poster somehow forget to mention that the "levitation" which is talked about is on the order of nanometers (check the Wikipedia article on the Casimir effect). Far from the kinds of stuff you see stage magicians do.

Re:Not a high point in science journalism (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129267)

Ur, "order of nanometers" meaning not more than 100's... sorry about the inaccuracy....

And the Casimir effect is... (5, Informative)

Mike1024 (184871) | more than 6 years ago | (#20128997)

Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] :

In physics, the Casimir effect or Casimir-Polder force is a physical force exerted between separate objects, which is due to neither charge, gravity, nor the exchange of particles, but instead is due to resonance of all-pervasive energy fields in the intervening space between the objects. [...] Since the strength of the force falls off rapidly with distance it is only measurable when the distance between the objects is extremely small. On a submicron scale, this force becomes so strong that it becomes the dominant force between uncharged conductors. Indeed at separations of 10 nm -- about a hundred times the typical size of an atom -- the Casimir effect produces the equivalent of 1 atmosphere of pressure (101.3 kPa).

Doesn't sound useful on a large scale (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20129279)

Given the distance over which the force operates, it doesn't sound like you can use this to levitate large items. Surface roughness is measured in micro-meters and the force operates over nano-meters. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roughness [wikipedia.org]

A standard solution for a 'frictionless bearing' is an air bearing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_bearing [wikipedia.org]

The utility of this work seems limited to very small things.

the Force (1)

iiii (541004) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129309)

"...all-pervasive energy fields in the intervening space between the objects..."
a.k.a. "the Force"

Requires a perfect lens (4, Informative)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129007)

From this article [zpenergy.com] :

Now, Leonhardt and Philbin have calculated that the Casimir force between two conducting plates can turn from being attractive to repulsive if a "perfect" lens is sandwiched between them. A perfect lens can focus an image with a resolution that is not restricted by the wavelength of light. Such a lens could be made from a metamaterial made of artificial structures that are engineered to have negative index of refraction -- which means that the metamaterial bends light in the opposite direction to an ordinary material.

According to the researchers, the negative-index metamaterial is able to modify the zero-point oscillations in the gap between the surfaces, reversing the direction of the Casimir force. Indeed, the researchers believe that this repulsive force is strong enough to levitate an aluminium mirror that is 500nm thick, causing it to hover above a perfect lens placed over a conducting plate. Since the Casimir force acts on the length scale of nanomachines, manipulating it could be important for future applications of nanotechnology.
To summarize, nothing has been built yet. It's possible that it could be built, though you'd have to make a "perfect" lens in the tiny space between the two plates. Unfortunately, every "perfect" lens I've heard of tends to be wavelength-specific and relatively large (compared to the gap the Casimir effect requires). It may be that these are just engineering hurdles, but it may also be physically impossible to pull off.

Re:Requires a perfect lens (3, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129031)

Oh, well, then I guess we're not going to leave it up the guys who made the original lenses on the Hubble, now are we?

Re:Requires a perfect lens (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129091)

And dont forget negative refractive index materials for the lens. Is it real or imaginary. From what little I remember, refractive index is the ratio of the speed of light in a medium and the speed in vacuum. Negative index means, negative speed of light? Speed is not a vector. How does one get negative speed?

Reminds me of the brilliant proof for the existence of perpetual motion machines, that assumes a magnetic monopole.

Re:Requires a perfect lens (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129189)

Well, since we know from Einstein that as soon as the speed of light is involved, it all depends on the position of the observer, i.e. where you are in the system, and when I stand in the traffic jam on a Monday, subjectively I can sense what negative speed is. You should try it.

Re:Requires a perfect lens (1)

vigmeister (1112659) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129249)

How does one get negative speed
IANAP, but I would wager a guess that negative (directionless) speed would involve some kind of phase shift by 180deg which would 'negate' the orginal wave. That would be EXACTLY the kind of senseless convention that scientists use ;) .

Just in case... you saw it here first :)

Cheers!

Re:Requires a perfect lens (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129419)

Sorry, refractive indexes actually have very little to do with the speed of light in the various mediums. (At least, not directly.) Instead, they have to do with the materials permeability and permittivity to electromagnetic fields. (That is: How fast it magnatizes, and how fast it polarises.)

Negative refractive index materials have already been demonstrated, for specfic wavelengths. Haven't managed on visual wavelengths yet, as far as I can remember.

Re:Requires a perfect lens (1)

Agripa (139780) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129425)

From what little I remember, refractive index is the ratio of the speed of light in a medium and the speed in vacuum. Negative index means, negative speed of light? Speed is not a vector. How does one get negative speed?

The index of refraction is the ratio of the speed of light in a vacuum to the phase velocity in the material and the later under certain conditions can be negative meaning that the wave fronts are moving in the opposite direction to the flow of energy.

These materials display some other odd characteristics:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_refractive_i ndex#Negative_refractive_index [wikipedia.org]

I am reminded of an article in Radio Electronics long ago showing the design and construction of a refractive satellite antenna. It is much easier to cut concentric circles in a flat piece of material then to shape a 3 dimensional parabola. That you can create a lens by obscuring a distant signal in a specific way is not intuitive and I can only imagine what people would think seeing one constructed today.

huh? (5, Funny)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129019)

What is this? a spelling contest or a discussion about a new scientific discovery?

Sheesh. Anybody would think /. is populated purely by obsessive pedants with nothing better to do.

oh..

Re:huh? (5, Funny)

Ciarang (967337) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129349)

You need a capital A to start a new sentence.

zomg flying cars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20129021)

the future will finally arrive!

I tried to RTFA... (1, Offtopic)

HappySmileMan (1088123) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129025)

But the ad on the right felt to need to cover up half the text of the article

Re:I tried to RTFA... (1)

MollyB (162595) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129097)

I don't know if anyone else had this experience, but CoolIris won't load the page on my Ubuntu notebook. No problem with ads, though, with AdBlockPlus, NoScript running...

Re:I tried to RTFA... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20129325)

the problem is that linux trash. get rid of that and load a real os in it's place.

Re:I tried to RTFA... (1)

tenco (773732) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129137)

Well, like the box of /. new discussion systems needs to cover part of the sites left column. Disable Javascript ( and return to /. old discussion system...)

Dry glue? Are you thinking what I'm thinking? (4, Funny)

objekt (232270) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129045)

"dry glue" effect that enables a gecko to walk across a ceiling.

"Spider-pig, Spider-pig,
Does whatever a Spider-pig does."

Re:Dry glue? Are you thinking what I'm thinking? (2, Funny)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129179)

"Spider-pig, Spider-pig,
Does whatever a Spider-pig does."

"Can he fly from a web?
  No he can't 'cause he's a pig"

Re:Dry glue? Are you thinking what I'm thinking? (0, Offtopic)

FJR1300 Rider (888176) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129213)

"Look out, he is a spiderpig."

Re:Dry glue? Are you thinking what I'm thinking? (4, Funny)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129215)

"Spider-pig, Spider-pig,
        Does whatever a Spider-pig does."

"Can he fly from a web?
    No he can't 'cause he's a pig"


"Look out! He isn't paper trained....."

*applause* (2, Interesting)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129073)

Nicola Tesla would be proud. This sounds like all the electrical field tuning he did back in the 1800's only on a smaller scale and for different purposes.

Modulating fields like this seems to me to be some sort of thrusting action although they don't come out and say it.

Re:*applause* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20129283)

NIKOLA Tesla

Woohoo (2, Funny)

zonestalker (883074) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129129)

now where is my hover skateboard?

Re:Woohoo (1)

Andrew Aguecheek (767620) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129219)

There are still seven and a half years left for them to be developed in. Be patient.

Re:Woohoo (1)

vigmeister (1112659) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129473)

If and when they are available, am I the only one that thinks the pink edition would be the bestseller of the lot? Thanks a lot, Calvin!

Cheers!

Casimir Scientists' Own Page (4, Informative)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129131)

A humorous page about these British scientists' work by St Andrews physics Professor Leonhardt explains their work on Casimir "levitation" [st-andrews.ac.uk] .

Being British... (3, Insightful)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129139)

1. Invent/discover something cool
2. Tell everyone about it
3. ???? 4. NO Profit

It's sad to say that here in the UK we never learn and have a long and distinguished history of brilliant research followed by total fumbling of the ball and making no money out of the discoveries whatsoever.

Re:Being British... (3, Insightful)

Pecisk (688001) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129459)

And this is bad because...?

Woah, you want to tell me that there are scientists who actually do science for...err...sake of science, not money? What a surprise!

Without irony, I personally don't believe in profiting from BIG discoveries. If you get some applications going from that discovery, then it is understandable that you can and you will profit from them, but not from discovery itself.

an almost content-free article (3, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129165)

Apart from saying it uses a "special lens" there's no information about how the team managed to reverse this effect. In fact there's more space given to the hocus-pocus aspects (that every straight thinking /.'er dismissed in an instant) than of any actual science.

The thelegraph is supposed to be one of the more serious british dailies. So heaven help us all if this is what they pass off as a science story.

Re:an almost content-free article (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129217)

Just because it's serious doesn't mean it's scientific. Personally I never liked the style of the Telegraph (or the Independent) but at least it wasn't in the Sun/Mail/Star with some "scientist may be able to boost boobs with magic underwear" headline, some made-up reference to underwear using the repelling force for improved figure and some lewder phraseology.

Slam Dunk Reporting, Guys (5, Informative)

TychoCelchuuu (835690) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129233)

You can tell the journalistic standards at the Telegraph are through the roof. From the article:

The force is due to neither electrical charge or gravity, for example, but the fluctuations in all-pervasive energy fields in the intervening empty space between the objects and is one reason atoms stick together, also explaining a dry glue effect that enables a gecko to walk across a ceiling.

This wasn't enough for me, so I wandered over to Wikipedia:

In physics, the Casimir effect or Casimir-Polder force is a physical force exerted between separate objects, which is due to neither charge, gravity, nor the exchange of particles, but instead is due to resonance of all-pervasive energy fields in the intervening space between the objects.

The only changes to the Wikipedia article lately have been a link to this article, which is sort of meta. Wikipedia linking to an article plagiarizing from, of all places, Wikipedia. Cute, but also a little sad.

When I hear 'Casimir', I think 'Zero Point'... (5, Interesting)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129245)

I am a physicist, but these subjects are often beyond me. Still, let me try a short explanation. This seems, to me, rather an important discovery.

The Casimir effect happens when you get two surfaces very nearly touching. Virtual particles emerge on the other side of the surfaces and force them together. Virtual particles being, well, virtual -- very short-lived and low-energy -- this effect only occurs when the surfaces are very, very close to one another.

What's intriguing about the Casimir effect is that it is extracting work from the zero point energy of the universe, the base energy field of empty space. (Yes, even a total vacuum contains virtual particles, and thus some energy.) It is not immediately obvious how to make this useful, however, if the only way to tap into the zero point energy is to destructively sandwich two expensive materials together.

Reversing the Casimir effect is brilliant. By placing a perfect lens between the two materials, the virtual particles create a repulsive force. This could, as stated, create a levitation effect by preventing the surfaces from ever touching. 'Levitation' is a strong word, though. It'll 'levitate' a nanometer or so above the other surface, which is only good for reducing the friction between them to zero. So 'frictionless surfaces' is probably the keyword we should be using here.

I'm intrigued because it would seem to be easier to generate power from the zero point energy with a repulsive effect than an attractive one. So this could also be the first step toward a zero point energy generator -- free energy. What will they think of next...

Re:When I hear 'Casimir', I think 'Zero Point'... (2, Interesting)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129363)

I'm intrigued because it would seem to be easier to generate power from the zero point energy with a repulsive effect than an attractive one. So this could also be the first step toward a zero point energy generator -- free energy. What will they think of next...

My thoughts exactly, although I found myself unable to word them thusly, which brings us to this inevitable question : Wouldn't it violate the second law of thermodynamics?

Re:When I hear 'Casimir', I think 'Zero Point'... (2, Interesting)

vigmeister (1112659) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129429)

Wouldn't it violate the second law of thermodynamics?
I'd assume there's no violation unless the surfaces move closer to each other as a result of the force since no work gets done. But the validity of that statement lies with my rephrased question: "Does any potential energy get 'created' in the process of increased attraction?"

Cheers!
--
Vig

From the article (3, Funny)

VitrosChemistryAnaly (616952) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129301)

Their discovery could ultimately lead to frictionless micro-machines with moving parts that levitate.
Finally that fast talking dude will have a job again!

In Disguise (1)

jlebrech (810586) | more than 6 years ago | (#20129411)

Is this reverse engineering from Megatron or from one of those cigars??
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