Zero point energy

So I was listening to Art Bell last night as I was falling asleep — always a risky proposition unless you like troubled dreams about Yeti, global warming and/or Area 51. Anyhow, my ears pricked up when I heard the guest was from Jane’s Defense. I have some history with Jane’s, count one or two of their staff as friendly acquaintances, and know they aren’t a trivial lot. The topic was zero-point energy, and being a little buzzed from a night of beer and pool, I didn’t follow it too closely. But this morning I managed to Google same topic and a terrific primer popped up here. The gist:

“Quantum physics predicts the existence of an underlying sea of zero-point energy at every point in the universe. This is different from the cosmic microwave background and is also referred to as the electromagnetic quantum vacuum since it is the lowest state of otherwise empty space. This energy is so enormous that most physicists believe that even though zero-point energy seems to be an inescapable consequence of elementary quantum theory, it cannot be physically real, and so is subtracted away in calculations.

“A minority of physicists accept it as real energy which we cannot directly sense since it is the same everywhere, even inside our bodies and measuring devices. From this perspective, the ordinary world of matter and energy is like a foam atop the quantum vacuum sea. It does not matter to a ship how deep the ocean is below it. If the zero-point energy is real, there is the possibility that it can be tapped as a source of power or be harnassed to generate a propulsive force for space travel.”

Very neat stuff.

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