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# Physics We Can All Understand - Part 5: Zero-Point Energy

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posted on Jul, 12 2014 @ 05:50 AM
Hi, I'm John Skieswanne, and this post is part 5 of a series on physics. In this series I will explain a few pillars of modern physics. I won't be using any complex maths. It is my hope that this series will introduce some of you brilliant, curious-minded laymen out there to the inner circles of Physics.
So, sit back and enjoy.

******

Zero-Point Energy.

Until the advent of quantum mechanics, we assumed that absolute vacuum, that is, absolute nothingness, would have no energy. Unlike matter, utter nothingness cannot form breezes like air does, it cannot carry mechanical waves like water does, it cannot get heated up like iron does. So, we thought it meant that absolute nothingness would have no energy whatsoever.

It turns out that quantum mechanics predicts otherwise. And it turns out it has been proved right. Even total emptiness still has energy - in fact, energy can never reach below a certain level. This minimum energy is called, the Zero Point Energy. Here's the mechanism behind this energy spread across the Universe:

Imagine utter nothingness. If I was to ask you, please prove me that this nothingness is truly without any particles, you would have a rather hard time doing so. Because Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle states that one cannot measure a particle's value without influencing another value, it models space (and empty space) like an ocean of probabilities. This means that one has no way of proving that energy does not exist there - actually, it probably does exist at any point of space-time.

Since one can never know (because of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle) if a particle (including energy particles) is or is not exactly at one place in space and time, then we can't prove that energy is not present at any given points in space and time. Thus all of space-time has the probability of being filled with non-zero energy.
Additionally, this non-zero energy's existence has been verified. At atmospheric pressure, you can never freeze helium-4. This is because zero-point energy is present everywhere, including the Earth, and counters the effect of the helium-4's cooling. Even at absolute zero Kelvin, helium-4 will never become solid, because zero-point energy actually heats it up a bit. Even at its absolute zero point, energy of a system cannot reach absolute zero.

******

The omnipresence of the Zero-Point Energy makes it a form of energy which never need refuelling (it is present even in utter nothingness), yet always yields an output (it actively interacts with objects). This is why many energy enthusiasts reasoned that tapping into the Zero-Point Energy could solve the world's Energy Crisis. Yet these enthusiasts received unanimous derision from the science community.

Well, allow me to explain why:
Although Zero-Point Energy is indeed, by popular definition, "free" (it never runs out, it never requires input), it is, nevertheless, a form of energy which cannot be harnessed. This is precisely because of the fact that zero-point energy is so omnipresent.
A simple analogy: Imagine a world where nothing can ever reach below room temperature. One could try to build a device to harness this heat, for instance by building a thermopile. A thermopile works by detecting a temperature difference and directly converting it into electricity. Now, if nothing outside the thermopile can reach below room temperature, then it means you'll always have free heat to run the thermopile, right?
Well, this would be a brilliant reasoning but there is one tiny flaw in this logic: the thermopile's components, too, can never reach below room temperature. Thus, there is no temperature difference between the source of "free heat" energy and the harnessing device. Which means, the thermopile sees zero relative heat, and thus fails to harness the energy in any workable form.

Since most devices work on potential energy (the relative difference between two level of energies), then everything having a minimum energy doesn't solve the problem of one still needing to create actual potential differences for such devices to work.

******

I hope you enjoyed this read; Part 6 will be coming soon, and will deal about another popular aspect of modern physics.

Swan

Other part of the series:

-Part 1: the Uncertainty Principle
-Part 2: the Special Theory of Relativity
-Part 3: Quantum Entanglement
-Part 4: The Standard Model

posted on Jul, 12 2014 @ 05:57 AM

...then we can't prove that energy is not present at any given points in space and time. Thus all of space-time has the probability of being filled with non-zero energy.

I am sorry but........

What that says is that because I can't prove that something is not their, then it probably is.

I can't prove that I am surrounded by angels therefore I probably am ......

Modern science does a lot of this double think magic tricks.

P

posted on Jul, 12 2014 @ 06:02 AM

Indeed.

But when it comes to particles, Heisenberg demonstrated that one can never prove with full certainty the properties of a particle. Thus its properties are smudged as a probability wave.

This "magical trick" stops as soon as the object of interest is newtonian and can be observed. So since angels would be much bigger than subatomic particles (well, I guess), then this "magical" thinking wouldn't really apply to them...

edit on 12-7-2014 by swanne because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 12 2014 @ 06:23 AM

If we could only invent a thermopile type device that could feed off of different energy densities all the way down to Zero Point and produce usable power.. Not in my life time I would guess but might make a great star drive for a scfi novel ...

posted on Jul, 12 2014 @ 06:30 AM

Heisenberg demonstrated that one can never prove with full certainty the properties of a particle.

Oh the arrogance!

What Heisenberg demonstrated is only that he could never prove with full certainty the properties of a particle.

Does not mean that with further breakthroughs someone a bit smarter that he will understand it.

Protons Neutrons and Electrons were once just postulated theories. Now, not so much.

In the medical field it was once accepted science that blood letting was a good treatment for all sorts of things.

It is all just theory, spinning in such a ego filled community with everyone trying to get their greedy paws and some grant money.

P

edit on 12/7/2014 by pheonix358 because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 12 2014 @ 06:33 AM
There have been a number of advances in "Weak Measurement" i.e observing energy interactions whilst causing the minimal quantum disruption that cast doubt on the finality of Heisenbergs principle.

As we grow to understand the none-euclidian geometries of space we "should" be able to get to a point in the future where we can "open up our understanding" of space into a > 11 dimensional superfluid vacum that exhibits bose einstein condensate properties.

At the moment we look at space as viewing a pool table through a letter box and when we see balls colliding on the pool table and with good maths- we can achieve a degree of accuracy in our predictions of when we will see balls through the letterbox and what color they will be.

The next step is to remove the letterboxed view and calculate the cue action, cue ball position, pool table dimensions, bounciness of cushions, ball present etc etc and suddenly a lot of the "weirdness" in physics will be calculable.

I dont think there is any captureable net energy in Space itself ( a bose einstein condensate) as to remove energy from the system- you would need to be outside of the system- or have more energy than the system- which we as beings of matter, seemingly cant do.

If space is a Bose Einstein Condensate then the notion of space being "nothing" and "nothing" driving the energetic probabilities is fundamentally flawed as the actual properties of the BEC would shape the energetic interactions contained within (think properties such as density, temperature, phase, time etc)

edit on 12-7-2014 by Jukiodone because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 12 2014 @ 06:35 AM

originally posted by: 727Sky

If we could only invent a thermopile type device that could feed off of different energy densities all the way down to Zero Point and produce usable power.. Not in my life time I would guess but might make a great star drive for a scfi novel ...

Way ahead of you! Nice timing though! From my current book

A stray thought went by as I remembered plots from various Sci Fi TV shows on Earth. They had talked about the Zero Point Field and I remembered looking it up just out of curiosity. I did not understand much but the concept was fairly simple. Underlying the universe was a field of energy that connected everything together. So instead of drawing energy from everything around me on Winnowaan why not access the underlying field that powered the whole universe. It seemed logical and the theory involved had always made perfect sense, well, to me at least.

I sent out mind vision. Living auras sprang out and I could sense all the life around me. Without thinking too much I simply thought about going down a level. It became instantly apparent to my mind like a vast energy field surrounding me and seeming to extend out to infinity in every conceivable direction. In the middle of the river was a large boulder, a little larger than Lerinth. I surrounded it with energy and then set the energy to ignore gravity. The boulder started slowly moving downstream. It was getting away! I laughed and held it in place with some of the energy. It looked heavy but I decided to try and lift it.

I drew more power from the field, set it under the boulder and pushed with my mind, as hard as I could. The boulder rushed into the sky! I kept watching it until it became difficult to see. Then I had a thought! The old saying came to mind, what goes up, must come down. I tabbed the communicator on the left wrist of my armor and said, “Sophia to Winno, extremely urgent. There is a large flying boulder going up, um, can you make sure it does not hurt anyone when it comes down, sorry, I lost track of it. My bad!” Winno responded, “I am tracking it. It startled me. I just called the Weyr Ship to Battle Stations.

I have a weapons lock but it is not really slowing down. It has escape velocity and is not being affected by gravity. Can you tell me what it actually is please?” I replied, “It is just a nice smooth boulder, um, when it is safe to do so could you perhaps destroy it so it can’t hurt anything in the future, sorry, it got away from me. I was just trying something out. It started out good and then it sort of got out of control.”

Winno replied, “I have passed your request on to the orbital planetary defense satellites, they have it on scanners, weapons are locked and they are firing.” Winno paused for a few seconds and then added, “Sophia, your boulder has been destroyed. Rodene would like to have a chat with you when you return.” I replied meekly, “Yes, I am sure she does. I will return as soon as Lerinth’s meal has settled, um, out.”

I looked at Lerinth and her mind simply burst into laughter. She sent, “Awesome!”

posted on Jul, 12 2014 @ 09:03 AM

As always, I appreciate you taking the time with this series

Not sure if I'm 100% tracking with this theory but I am glad there are those out there willing to be wrong to find the right.

posted on Jul, 12 2014 @ 10:08 AM

originally posted by: 727Sky

If we could only invent a thermopile type device that could feed off of different energy densities all the way down to Zero Point and produce usable power.. Not in my life time I would guess but might make a great star drive for a scfi novel ...

But remember that down at the zero point, your thermopile too will have a non-zero level of energy. Since you can get electrical current only from potential difference in energy, to harness exterior zero-point energy you'd need to actually find a way to remove zero-point energy out of your thermopile. This means bending the laws of quantum model so that it stop applying to the thermopile. And even if one did succeed in removing any zero-point energy away from the thermopile, this would in itself require work input (which would defeat the whole point of "free" energy).

Otherwise no potential difference = no voltage.

edit on 12-7-2014 by swanne because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 12 2014 @ 04:15 PM

originally posted by: swanne

originally posted by: 727Sky

If we could only invent a thermopile type device that could feed off of different energy densities all the way down to Zero Point and produce usable power.. Not in my life time I would guess but might make a great star drive for a scfi novel ...

But remember that down at the zero point, your thermopile too will have a non-zero level of energy. Since you can get electrical current only from potential difference in energy, to harness exterior zero-point energy you'd need to actually find a way to remove zero-point energy out of your thermopile. This means bending the laws of quantum model so that it stop applying to the thermopile. And even if one did succeed in removing any zero-point energy away from the thermopile, this would in itself require work input (which would defeat the whole point of "free" energy).

Otherwise no potential difference = no voltage.

We have different ways of converting between energy;
nuclear fission -> heat -> water pressure -> turbine -> electricity (nuclear power)
water (potential energy) -> turbine -> electricity (hydroelectric dams - use gravity)
fossil fuels -> ignition -> heat/pressure -> rotation motion -> dynamo -> electricity (oil/gas)
fossil fuels -> heat -> water pressure -> turbine -> electricity (coal)
wind -> rotation motion -> dynamo -> electricity (wind power)
light/heat -> solar panel -> electricity (solar power)
vibration -> piezoelectric -> electricity (motion power)

In theory, we should be able to use electromagnetic fields in the same way. But those would only work in space orbit. Astronauts extended a hundred meter long metal cable from the space shuttle, and the potential difference between the two ends was of several hundred volts.

If only it were possible to use the ZPE in the same way.

posted on Jul, 13 2014 @ 05:43 AM

originally posted by: pheonix358
What Heisenberg demonstrated is only that he could never prove with full certainty the properties of a particle.

Well this is basically the core of the Einstein-Bohr debates.

posted on Jul, 14 2014 @ 07:47 AM

originally posted by: ABNARTY

As always, I appreciate you taking the time with this series

Many thanks mate!

Not sure if I'm 100% tracking with this theory

No problem. So, what is it you're uncertain about?

edit on 14-7-2014 by swanne because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 15 2014 @ 08:35 PM

It is probably easier to say what I do understand

I guess when we get into QT, for the layman it becomes a little out-there. I have no doubt one day humans will have this down to a more digestible train of thought but right now it sound very heavy on theory and calculation, light on tangible experiment.

Not attacking anything here, just speaking up for the non-scientists
Regardless, keep 'em coming. Love reading this stuff.

posted on Jul, 16 2014 @ 09:11 AM

well most of the QT really is simple - after all, it was devised almost a century ago. The calculations are there only for the sake of accuracy and argument - but the core of the QT is really the uncertainty principle.

-In the QT, the probability of something happening forms a wave.
-Also in QT, this wave is interpreted as something actually physical.

Anything else is pretty much a follow-up, tie-in to these two points. Electrons never crash into the atom's nucleus because the probability wave forbids them to do so. Similarly, an electron might experience quantum tunnelling because there is a small probability for the electron to exist past a wall.

edit on 16-7-2014 by swanne because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 16 2014 @ 09:17 AM

originally posted by: stormcell
If only it were possible to use the ZPE in the same way.

It could be possible but only if you could find areas of spacetime which has other laws of physics than the one in which your device is located.

It is the opinion of most that there are easier ways to generate a potential difference.

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