What happens if you remove everything from a part of space. Remove all matter, remove all light, remove all atoms … everything! You would get a vacuum, nothingness. You would think that such nothingness would not be interesting. You are wrong. It still contains more stuff than you can imagine. In VERITAS we will study nothingness today:
Come lets fathom it, whatever may befall
IN this, your NOTHING, I may find my all.
Imagine a pendulum… now make it stop. It will stop. We can say that the pendulum has lost all its evergy and has stopped oscillating. Now imagine a very very small pendulum(of atomic dimensions). This pendulum can loose energy BUT it can NEVER stop.
According to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle you cannot determine the precise value of position and momentum at the same time. If the pendulum stops you would know the values of position and momentum and that is impossible. A Quantum pendulum(a quantum oscillator) can NEVER stop!
What is electromagnetic radiation(light)? It is an oscillation of the Electric and Magnetic fields. And we have seen that oscillations cannot cease. Thus even if you remove all light from a part of space, you still have oscillations in their lowest energy states. So in a vacuum there is ALWAYS an electromagnetic field. You cannot remove this lowest state field. HOw much is this lowest state field? Light can be imagined as a set of oscillators(one for each possible value of frequency and direction of light). So there is not one lowest state oscillator in a vacuum. There are several. There is so much lowest state energy in a empty cup of coffee that it can boil all the oceans of the world(if we could tap this energy)!!!!!
Nothingness is brimming with electromagnetic radiation!!!
Why cannot we tap this lowest state energy( called zero point energy)? We cannot tap it because there is no energy below it. Imagine living on a plateau 1000 kms in height.
And you do not know if there is land below it. You would think that you live at “ground level”. You need to be able to fall to know that you are at a height. In the same way to tap a energy source you need a point below it and nothing is below this zero point energy.
The ordinary world of matter and energy rests on a HUGE HUGE foam of the quantum vacuum field.
Do we ever see the effects of this vacuum energy? Yes we do. I will explain some these effects of the zero point energy:
a) radiation from atoms: Imagine giving an atom some heat. The electrons will rise to their higher unstable energy levels. The electrons will stay there unless perturbed by something. It is like carefully placing a ball on the top of a pole. Why should the ball fall if there is no disturbance? For electrons there is always the disturbance of this vacuum field and they always come back to their lower states and emit light. That is how your electric bulb works. This phenomenon is called spontaneous radiation.
2) Van Der Walls force: Sometimes the vacuum field outside 2 conductors is different from the field inside. THis causes the conductors to be pushed closer by the vacuum field outside. This is the Van Der Walls force.
3) Inertia: Latest research suggests that inertia may be bacause of this vacuum field. Some researchers have derived Newtons laws of motion from the quantum mechanics of the zero point energy!!!! Imagine that. When we studied Physics we always started with Newton’s laws. We could never derive them. But this theory is still in a research phase.
See how much there is in nothingness.
Man is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he emerges and the infinity in which he is engulfed.
Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time and regulate the Sun;