August 8th, 2009 13:44 EST
Exploring the Casimir Effect
The title sounds very exciting doesn`t it? Well don`t start saving your pennies to buy one of the first lines of flying carpets on the shelves of your favorite gizmo store. Don`t be fooled by science hype; it will be a long time before any of these promises truly come to pass.
On the other hand, I do believe that they all will be a reality sooner or later. These things and many more will become practical because of a scientific theory that is fast proving out in lesser applications and grand experiments. This theory is known as the Casimir effect, and it is part of the whole quantum mechanics/nanotechnology revolution.
The science is named after Hendrik Casimir, a Dutch scientist who predicted a phenomenon in 1948, that, an attractive force exists between two conducting metal plates. (1) The implications went a little farther when it was proven that indeed there is a force detected when two metallic plates are placed facing each other, and even so inside a an absolute vacuum chamber.
This new discovery was followed by experiments that showed that an absolute vacuum isn`t really empty, but is actually bristling with energy. It was dubbed zero-point energy, " and accounts for all sorts of speculation about the possibility of interstellar space travel. Since apparently there is virtually no shortage of this energy available, the idea is to find a way to covert zero-point energy into a system that will propel a space vehicle. Space ships designed with such propulsion, could conceivably travel through space indefinitely.
It was also discovered that Casimir forces can be manipulated to both attract and repel depending on the configuration of materials used. An obvious implication here is that if you can make a field of repulsion strong enough, you could make levitating devices, ala the flying carpet. Some scientists theorize that such repulsion can be had even at great distances.
Another extrapolation of these discoveries is that the Casimir effect can be used to produce a locally mass-negative region of space-time, and suggested that negative effect could be used to stabilize a wormhole to allow faster than light travel. " (2) Some, including myself speculate that wormholes can be converted into time machines by taking advantage of the natural time warping properties that come with the speeds and distances involving faster than light travel.
Now if you think that this is all just science fiction, take note that the 1960`s television series, Star Trek, " inspired a whole generation of technology buffs to go to school, major in electrical engineering and computer science and go on to make many of the fictional gizmos a reality.
As for the Casimir effect, well, the U.S. Department of Defense is now funding research in this area. This fact alone might speed up the time tables for the day when you will go out with your family or friends to the park while riding upon a levitating carpet.
Sources and Resources
- Berger, M., September 19, 2008, Nanowerk, Nanotechnology, the mysterious Casimir Force, and interstellar spaceships, " retrieved on 11/21/08 from http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=7337.php
- Highfield, R., August 2007l, Physicists have `solved` mystery of levitation, " Telegraph.Co.uk